Italian Stars Who Are Improving, Regressing with Their Clubs

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Italian Stars Who Are Improving, Regressing with Their Clubs
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

The Italian national soccer team is facing two major international tournaments in the next two years.  

This summer's Confederations Cup will be followed next year by the granddaddy of them all, the World Cup, which the Azzurri are currently in line to qualify for once again.

If you assume the Italians make the finals in both tournaments, Italy will play 18 competitive matches (World Cup qualifying, the Confederations Cup and the World Cup) over the next 16 months.  

That means the Italians will have to be prepared with their best players over the next year in order to take out some strong opposition and complete their return to the top spot of world soccer—the spot from which they were so unceremoniously dumped after their disastrous performance at the 2010 World Cup.

The question then becomes: Which of the players in Cesare Prandelli's available pool will best serve him in the upcoming tournaments?  Some of Prandelli's best players are starting to get a little long in the tooth, while a bumper crop of quality youngsters are waiting in the wings to give the Italians a push to what may be one of their greatest periods in history.

Here we look at 10 Italian players—five who are starting to explode onto the scene and five who are starting to show some cracks in their game.

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