Who Has Missed The Most Penalties In Football History World Cup 2006 Preview – Italy

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World Cup 2006 Preview – Italy

Final odds: 10/1

Group E winners: 10/11

Italy are the great masters of heart-wrenching tragedy when it comes to major finals. At all three World Cups held in the 1990s, Italy conceded penalties, including Roberto Baggio’s infamous miss against Brazil in the 1994 final.

They are not doing much better in Europe either. With Euro 2000 in the bag, opponents France equalized four minutes into stoppage time and went on to win, while at Euro 2004, Italy eased in the group stage when Sweden and Denmark drew 2-2, the only result that would have pushed both teams through at the expense of the Italians.

Italy have failed when it’s the most important art form and are likely to provide plenty of high drama in this summer’s finals. However, they tend to force it on themselves more often than not.

In a move that would make wheeler dealer manager Barry Fry proud, Italy coach Marcelo Lippi used a whopping 36 players in qualifying, so it’s arguable he still hasn’t found his best starting eleven. However, after 10 qualifying matches in which no player appeared in more than eight matches, Italy may not have the stability to see out a triumph in Germany.

Italy are notoriously slow starters in major finals which won’t help matters in what is potentially the toughest group of all. They lost an early match in Slovenia in the qualifiers and could come unstuck against unknown quantity Ghana in their opening match.

After a minor blip in qualifying, the Italians went unbeaten for the rest of the campaign, proving they are solid if not spectacular, and top the group with five points. There’s no value in them winning Group E at 10/11 or qualifying from it at huge odds, but given their history of being “there or there” they’re likely to secure a place in the final.

Their success will come thanks to a watertight defense led by Fabio Cannavaro, who missed the embarrassing defeat to South Korea in the 2002 final, and Alessandro Nesta.

Lippi also has the headache of who to play in attack. Veterans Alessandro Del Piero and Christian Vieri could make way for Milan’s Alberto Gilardino and Fiorentina’s Luca Toni, who scored four goals in eight qualifying matches. Real Madrid’s Antonio Cassano is another option.

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An unpredictable line-up and a history of doing ‘just enough’ to progress through the tournament rather than winning in style means there is more value in opposing Italy than backing them to win the group or qualify from it. Their final match against the Czech Republic could finish all the squares if a point is all that both sides need to progress to the last 16.

Italy – Czech Republic draw @ 11/5

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