International Football

Italy 2014 FIFA World Cup Squad: Player-by-Player Guide

Anthony LopopoloFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2014

Italy 2014 FIFA World Cup Squad: Player-by-Player Guide

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    Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said that no one was safe. Not even Mario Balotelli. But there is the Milan striker, along with 29 other players, in the provisional Italy squad released late on Tuesday.

    A day before, coach Roy Hodgson named his final England team for the World Cup. Big Phil Scolari listed his 23-man roster for Brazil last week. Prandelli has left himself a little more time to decide on a final squad.

    Some players did not have much of a chance. Out of the squad are Stephan El Shaarawy, the 21-year-old winger who spent most of the season recovering from knee injuries, and Dani Osvaldo, who even up until this past Sunday had hopes of making the team. Alberto Gilardino also missed out, despite his club Genoa congratulating him on a call-up prematurely on Twitter.

    Several players were never in doubt. Gianluigi Buffon is the undisputed No. 1. Defence is all Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli comprise the spine of the Azzurri. Of course there is Andrea Pirlo, who has already stated that he will retire from international football after this World Cup.

    Goalkeeper Antonio Mirante was added as the conditional 31st choice. He will take part in training in case of an emergency.

    Despite playing just once before for Italy, Serie A's leading scorer, Ciro Immobile, made the initial cut. Ailing striker Giuseppe Rossi is also there after taking the past four months to recover from another knee problem.

    Rossi is also one of four players born outside of Italy on the early team.

    These players will take part in the friendly against Ireland on May 31. Prandelli will have to trim his squad by June 6, per Football Italia.

    Let’s take a look at the rest of the Azzurri.

Gianluigi Buffon

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Name: Gianluigi Buffon

    Date of Birth: January 28, 1978

    Birthplace: Carrara, Italy

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Caps: 139

    Club: Juventus

    Brief Bio: The most expensive goalkeeper ever, Gianluigi Buffon is still playing at a high level for Juventus. He has played for Italy more times than any other.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Buffon has saved 20 penalties in his career, per Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Buffon is an eight-time Serie A goalkeeper of the year.

Antonio Mirante

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    Marco Vasini/Associated Press

    Name: Antonio Mirante

    Date of Birth: July 8, 1983

    Birthplace: Castellammare di Stabia, Italy

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Caps: 0

    Club: Parma

    Brief Bio: Mirante bumped around Italy for the first parts of his career, but he has found a home in Parma, starting 30 or more matches in each of the past five seasons.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Mirante replaced Buffon in a Serie B match for Juventus after the legendary Italian goalkeeper was sent off.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Mirante is fifth in Serie A with 11 clean sheets, per Fox Sports.

Mattia Perin

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    Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

    Name: Mattia Perin

    Date of Birth: November 10, 1992

    Birthplace: Latina, Italy

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Caps: 0

    Club: Genoa

    Brief Bio: He was called up to play for Italy's senior squad before, but Perin has only really played for the youth teams, starting from the U17 squad all the way through to the U21 edition.

    Quick-Hit Fact: With Pescarca, Perin played behind the worst defence in Serie A last year. They allowed a Serie A-high 84 goals.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Perin has made 135 saves this season, third in Serie A, according to Fox Sports.

Salvatore Sirigu

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Name: Salvatore Sirigu

    Date of Birth: January 12, 1987

    Birthplace: Nuoro, Italy

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Caps: 7

    Club: Paris Saint-Germain

    Brief Bio: Sirigu played in all three professional tiers of Italian football before signing a four-year deal with PSG.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Sirigu went 948 minutes without conceding a goal, a record in Ligue 1.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Sirigu has started 70 of a possible 76 matches over the past two seasons with PSG in Ligue 1.

Ignazio Abate

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    Felice Calabro'/Associated Press

    Name: Ignazio Abate

    Date of Birth: November 12, 1986

    Birthplace: Sant'Agata de' Goti, Italy

    Position: Right-back

    Caps: 18

    Club: AC Milan

    Brief Bio: Abate was made in Milan, spending his youth career with the team between 1999 and 2004. But he was loaned out five times, and only in 2009 did he become a starter with the Rossoneri. Originally a midfielder, the Brazilian Leonardo converted Abate into a full-back while coaching at Milan.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Known as the fastest player in Serie A. But Javier Zanetti once beat him in a foot race.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Abate has scored just once for Milan.

Andrea Barzagli

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    Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Name: Andrea Barzagli

    Date of Birth: May 8, 1981

    Birthplace: Fiesole, Italy

    Position: Centre-back

    Caps: 47

    Club: Juventus

    Brief Bio: Barzagli once played in the fourth division. Now he is a World Cup-winning defender and a three-time defending Serie A champion with Juventus, playing 134 competitive matches over the past three seasons.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Palermo sold Barzagli to Wolfsburg for €14 million. Wolfsburg sold the defender to Juventus for just €300,000 in January 2011. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: Barzagli has only received one red card in his career.

Leonardo Bonucci

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    Name: Leonardo Bonucci

    Date of Birth: May 1, 1987

    Birthplace: Viterbo, Italy

    Position: Centre-back

    Caps: 35

    Club: Juventus

    Brief Bio: Bonucci rose to prominence at Bari, where he formed an impressive partnership with Andrea Ranocchia in 2009-10. Juventus chose to buy one half of that force, and the 27-year-old defender has excelled in the three-man setup under Antonio Conte.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Bonucci once punched and chased down a man who tried to steal his watch.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He has scored three goals for Juventus this season, tying a career high.

Giorgio Chiellini

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Name: Giorgio Chiellini

    Date of Birth: August 14, 1984

    Birthplace: Pisa, Italy

    Position: Centre-back

    Caps: 67

    Club: Juventus

    Brief Bio: Chiellini grew up playing football and basketball, and he also studied business at the University of Turin. He stuck with Juventus when they were relegated to Serie B as punishment for their role in the match-fixing scandal. Chiellini is not afraid to bully opponents on the field.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Chiellini is a three-time Serie A defender of the year.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Chiellini has scored 31 times over the past nine years, quite a high total for a defender.

Matteo Darmian

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    Name: Matteo Darmian

    Date of Birth: December 29, 1989

    Birthplace: Legnano, Italy

    Position: Full-back

    Caps: 0

    Club: Torino

    Brief Bio: Matteo Darmian came up through Milan. He spent his formative years there, but he never got a chance with the senior team. He has since played in a variety of positions at Torino.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Darmian made his debut with Milan as a 16-year-old.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Darmian has started in all but one game in Serie A this season.

Mattia De Sciglio

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Name: Mattia De Sciglio

    Date of Birth: October 20, 1992

    Birthplace: Milan, Italy

    Position: Full-back

    Caps: 9

    Club: AC Milan

    Brief Bio: Mattia De Sciglio is one of the few native Milanese to play for Milan. He can play on both the left and right flanks, growing into a versatile defender. Real Madrid have reportedly offered Milan somewhere close to €20 million for the young defender.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Franco Baresi once compared De Sciglio to Paolo Maldini. "I remember Paolo when he started out," Baresi told the Milan Channel (h/t Forza Italian Football). "He played with a boldness and confidence, but also provided security. De Sciglio has those qualities, too."

    Quick-Hit Stat: De Sciglio made his first start with Milan in a Champions League match against Plzen.

Christian Maggio

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    Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

    Name: Christian Maggio

    Date of Birth: February 11, 1982

    Birthplace: Montecchio Maggiore, Italy

    Position: Right-back

    Caps: 34

    Club: Napoli

    Brief Bio: Christian Maggio played frequently in Serie B in the early stages of his career, and he joined Napoli upon the club's return to Serie A.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Maggio was hospitalized in March after suffering a collapsed lung.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Maggio has scored 20 goals in six seasons with Napoli.

Gabriel Paletta

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    Marco Vasini/Associated Press

    Name: Gabriel Paletta

    Date of Birth: February 15, 1986

    Birthplace: Longchamps, Argentina

    Position: Centre-back

    Caps: 1

    Club: Parma

    Brief Bio: Gabriel Paletta did play for Argentina at the U20 level and won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the same team as a young Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. The 28-year-old defender with Italian descendants made his first senior appearance with the Azzurri against Spain in March.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Paletta played briefly for Liverpool, becoming just the second Argentinian to feature for the club.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Parma's CEO once listed Paletta's value at €35 million, per goal.com.

Manuel Pasqual

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    Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

    Name: Manuel Pasqual

    Date of Birth: January 7, 1987

    Birthplace: San Dona del Piave, Italy

    Position: Left-back

    Caps: 5

    Club: Fiorentina

    Brief Bio: Manuel Pasqual played in all the professional tiers, from Serie C1 all the way up. He is now captain of Fiorentina, where he has played since 2005.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Pasqual has spent his entire Serie A career with Fiorentina.

    Quick-Hit Stat: After making his Italy debut in 2006, Pasqual went seven years without a call-up.

Andrea Ranocchia

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    Carlo Baroncini/Associated Press

    Name: Andrea Ranocchia

    Date of Birth: February 16, 1988

    Birthplace: Assisi, Italy

    Position: Centre-back

    Caps: 11

    Club: Inter

    Brief Bio: For the longest time, Andrea Ranocchia was supposed to be the heir to Alessandro Nesta. He is tall and lanky, and a little bit awkward, but he is explosive in the air and good for a header.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Ranocchia has won Serie B and the Coppa Italia, but never Serie A.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Ranocchia is one of just three outfield Italian players on Inter.

Romulo

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    Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

    Name: Romulo

    Date of Birth: May 22, 1987

    Birthplace: Pelotas, Brazil

    Position: Right-back

    Caps: 0

    Club: Hellas Verona

    Brief Bio: Romulo is Brazilian, but his distant relatives come from Venice. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Romulo played for several Brazilian clubs before joining Fiorentina in 2011.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He has scored six goals on loan at Hellas Verona this season.

Alberto Aquilani

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    Fabrizio Giovannozzi/Associated Press

    Name: Alberto Aquilani

    Date of Birth: July 7, 1984

    Birthplace: Rome, Italy

    Position: Midfielder

    Caps: 33

    Club: Fiorentina

    Brief Bio: Alberto Aquilani is a Roman, and he will always be a Roma fan. Liverpool spent £20 million to bring the Italian as a replacement for Xabi Alonso, who had left for Real Madrid. Aquilani did not feature much for the Reds, and after loan spells with Juventus and Milan, he rediscovered himself at Fiorentina.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Aquilani scored his first hat-trick of his career in a game against Genoa this season.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He has scored 14 goals in two seasons with Fiorentina.

Antonio Candreva

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    Marco Vasini/Associated Press

    Name: Antonio Candreva

    Date of Birth: February 28, 1987

    Birthplace: Rome, Italy

    Position: Right midfielder, right winger

    Caps: 19

    Club: Lazio

    Brief Bio: Before joining Lazio, Candreva was sent on loan several times. He made the 30-man squad for the 2010 World Cup, but he was later dropped by Marcello Lippi. This time he is a sure bet.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Candreva is an excellent taker of penalties, scoring a Panenka against Iker Casillas in the Confederations Cup last year.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He has scored 12 goals this season, setting a single-season career high.

Daniele De Rossi

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    Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images

    Name: Daniele De Rossi

    Date of Birth: July 24, 1983

    Birthplace: Rome, Italy

    Position: Midfielder

    Caps: 93

    Club: Roma

    Brief Bio: De Rossi is all Roma, much like Francesco Totti. His father was a youth team manager at Roma, and he coached his son there. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: His father-in-law was shot dead in a suspected mob hit in 2008.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He made his debut with Roma at 18 years old.

Claudio Marchisio

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    Name: Claudio Marchisio

    Date of Birth: January 19, 1986

    Birthplace: Chieri, Italy

    Position: Midfielder

    Caps: 42

    Club: Juventus

    Brief Bio: Marchisio grew up in Torino in a family of Juventus fans. Marchisio is a product of Juventus as well, and he has played for them since 2006—apart from one year spent on loan at Empoli.

    Quick-Hit Fact: He was a ball boy at the club's old stadium, and his parents were season-ticket holders.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He made his debut with Juventus in Serie B.

Riccardo Montolivo

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Name: Riccardo Montolivo

    Date of Birth: January 18, 1985

    Birthplace: Caravaggio, Italy

    Position: Midfielder

    Caps: 57

    Club: AC Milan

    Brief Bio: Born to an Italian father and a German mother, Riccardo Montolivo speaks fluent German and holds a German passport. He is the captain of AC Milan.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Montolivo is close friends with Giampaolo Pazzini. They made their debut with Italy together in 2004. They played together as kids at Atalanta, again at Fiorentina, and as veterans at Milan.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Montolivo has scored 32 goals in his career.

Marco Parolo

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Name: Marco Parolo

    Date of Birth: January 25, 1985

    Birthplace: Gallarate, Italy

    Position: Midfielder

    Caps: 2

    Club: Parma

    Brief Bio: The career of Marco Parolo has only now really taken flight. He has only spent the last few years playing in Serie A. Before that he was a regular in the lower tiers of Italian football.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Parolo is an AC Milan fan, and he often scores against them.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Parolo has scored eight goals this season, almost as many as he had in the previous three years combined (9).

Andrea Pirlo

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Name: Andrea Pirlo

    Date of Birth: May 19, 1979

    Birthplace: Flero, Italy

    Position: Midfielder

    Caps: 108

    Club: Juventus

    Brief Bio: Coach Cesare Prandelli has called Pirlo "a player who belongs to everyone." The Italian maestro grew up a fan of Inter, but he was most distinguished during his time with city rivals AC Milan, winning the Champions League twice.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Pirlo is one of seven players to feature for Inter, Milan and Juventus at some point.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Over just three seasons with Juventus, Pirlo has scored 12 goals off free-kicks.

Thiago Motta

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Name: Thiago Motta

    Date of Birth: August 28, 1982

    Birthplace: Sao Bernardo, Brazil

    Position: Midfielder

    Caps: 19

    Club: Paris Saint-Germain

    Brief Bio: Thiago Motta won domestic titles with Barcelona, and he later won everything at Inter. Now he is playing in France, where Paris Saint-Germain play the role of the juggernaut. He keeps joining teams at the right time.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Motta did play officially for Brazil, but he said in 2009 that he "feels Italian." His grandfather came from Italy.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Motta scored his first goal for Inter in the derby against Milan.

Marco Verratti

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Name: Marco Verratti

    Date of Birth: November 5, 1992

    Birthplace: Pescara, Italy

    Position: Midfielder

    Caps: 4

    Club: Paris Saint-Germain

    Brief Bio: Marco Verratti was a part of a high-scoring Pescara squad that made Serie A in 2012, but he chose to go to Paris upon the club's promotion. In France, he has started the majority of his games and won four titles.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Verratti has played more times for Italy than he has in Serie A.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He made his professional debut with Pescara at 16.

Mario Balotelli

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Name: Mario Balotelli

    Date of Birth: August 12, 1990

    Birthplace: Palermo, Italy

    Position: Forward

    Caps: 29

    Club: AC Milan

    Brief Bio: Mario Balotelli was born the son of immigrants from Ghana, but he was given up, and he took the name of his adoptive parents. He had to wait until he was 18 to gain Italian citizenship.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Balotelli provided the assist for the goal (scored by Sergio Aguero) that won Manchester City the Premier League title in 2011-12.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Balotelli has started more matches (25) with AC Milan this season than any other before in his professional career.

Antonio Cassano

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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    Name: Antonio Cassano

    Date of Birth: July 12, 1982

    Birthplace: Bari, Italy

    Position: Forward

    Caps: 35

    Club: Parma

    Brief Bio: Antonio Cassano was once an expensive mistake. Roma bought him from Bari, his hometown, for €30 million. He would later fall out of Real Madrid. He went through a renaissance period with Sampdoria, only to disrupt his career with moves to Milan and Inter. Now at Parma, he has excelled under coach Roberto Donadoni.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Cassano made his debut with Italy against Poland at 23 years old.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He scored his first professional goal against Inter, his boyhood club.

Alessio Cerci

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Name: Alessio Cerci

    Date of Birth: July 23, 1987

    Birthplace: Velletri, Italy

    Position: Right winger, forward

    Caps: 10

    Club: Torino

    Brief Bio: They compared Alessio Cerci to Thierry Henry in his younger days, the Thierry Henry of Valmonte, back when the Italian was developing with Roma. Cerci's career stalled, and he spent most of his time on loan, before finding his footing at Torino.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Just 16, Cerci made his Serie A debut under coach Fabio Capello at Roma.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Cerci has scored 13 goals for Torino this season, a career high.

Mattia Destro

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    Enrico Locci/Getty Images

    Name: Mattia Destro

    Date of Birth: March 20, 1991

    Birthplace: Ascoli, Italy

    Position: Forward

    Caps: 5

    Club: Roma

    Brief Bio: Before making his senior debut with the Azzurri, Mattia Destro had played at virtually every international youth level. He started his career with Inter, along with Mario Balotelli, but Destro later moved to Siena, where he scored 12 goals and gained attention as one of Italy's promising strikers.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Destro won the Champions League with Inter, even though he did not play a game.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Destro has scored 13 goals in 19 games this season.

Ciro Immobile

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Name: Ciro Immobile

    Date of Birth: February 20, 1990

    Birthplace: Torre Annunziata, Italy

    Position: Forward

    Caps: 1

    Club: Torino

    Brief Bio: Ciro Immobile is still co-owned by Juventus, but he has made his name across the city at Torino, scoring 22 goals. Before that, he largely looked like a bust. He had 28 goals in Serie B with Pescara in 2011-12, but he struggled with Genoa in his first real season in the top flight last year.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Immobile could become one of the few players to win the scoring title in both Serie A and Serie B.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Immobile has scored all 22 of his goals in Serie A this season from open play.

Lorenzo Insigne

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    Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

    Name: Lorenzo Insigne

    Date of Birth: June 4, 1991

    Birthplace: Napoli, Italy

    Position: Left winger, forward

    Caps: 4

    Club: Napoli

    Brief Bio: Lorenzo Insigne is the son of Naples. He wore the captain's armband this year, and he is only 22. Insigne also grew with the famous Pescara team under Zdenek Zeman during that 2011-12 season in Serie B.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Teammate Goran Pandev once called Insigne the "Italian Messi."

    Quick-Hit Stat: Insigne scored twice in the Coppa Italia final on May 3. He has only three goals in Serie A all season.

Giuseppe Rossi

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    Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

    Name: Giuseppe Rossi

    Date of Birth: February 1, 1987

    Birthplace: Teaneck, USA

    Position: Forward

    Caps: 29

    Club: Fiorentina

    Brief Bio: Born to Italian-American parents, Giuseppe Rossi went to Italy to play with Parma’s youth squad at the age of 12. Injuries disrupted his career, most notably a two-year spell in which he rehabilitated from a torn ACL.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Giuseppe Rossi has not yet played for Italy in a World Cup.

    Quick-Hit Stat: In his first season with Fiorentina, Rossi has scored 16 goals in 23 appearances.

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