The results of Italy's recent pre-World Cup friendlies—a goalless draw with Ireland and a shock 1-1 deadlock with Luxembourg—may have induced some slight panic on the peninsula. The draw against lowly Luxembourg in particular—the first time the team has ever taken points from the Italians—has brought about some pessimism.
That said, Italy has a long history of underperforming in non-competitive matches, especially under Cesare Prandelli, who uses them as platforms for experimenting with different formations, tactics and player combinations. Two years ago they were hammered 3-0 by Russia in their last friendly before Euro 2012, then went on to reach the final, expunging a significant part of the shame generated by the debacle in South Africa in 2010.
Frankly, the team that faced Luxembourg on Wednesday looked like one whose biggest aim was to ensure no one got injured before the final whistle.
In spite of the disappointing results, some players stood out—some for the right reasons and some for the wrong ones. Let's take a look at the winners and losers to come out of Italy's friendlies before Brazil 2014.