After two months of waiting after the end of Euro 2012, international soccer is about to mean something again in Europe.
This weekend sees UEFA embark on it's World Cup qualification process, and in Italy all eyes will be on the Azzurri.
After entering the Euros with very little in the way of expectation thanks to the calcioscommesse betting scandal and their embarrassing performance two years before in the World Cup in South Africa, the Italians surprised all but the most ardent of homers by advancing to the final, where they were dismissed by the defending champion Spaniards in a match that was closer than the 4-0 scoreline would lead you to believe.
It's now up to the men wearing Savoy blue to continue the momentum that they have seized from the Euros. Some of the stain of the humiliation in South Africa has been wiped away, but it won't truly be gone until the Italians have played a successful World Cup.
Getting there isn't going to be easy.
Italy has arguably been drawn into the Group of Death for this qualifying stage. Their opening weekend, however, is going to be a bit softer than the challenges that lie ahead.
Here, we take a look at Friday's qualification opener in Sofia against Bulgaria.