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Euro 2016 profile: Defensive discipline expected as ever from Italy

Our latest Euro 2016 profile looks at Italy, with the Azzurri reaching the finals under the radar. They can never be discounted in the betting.

We’re profiling all 24 teams that will be competing in France, so punters will have an expert view as Europe’s finest collide.

This time our focus is on Italy, who will look to secure their second Euros crown after losing convincingly to Spain in the 2012 final.

The Azzurri now face a tricky Group E of Belgium, Republic of Ireland and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden to progress into the tournament’s knockout rounds. Sky Bet have Italy at 7/4 to top their pool after qualifying for the finals undefeated.

History at the Euros: Under pragmatic coach Cesare Prandelli, Italy’s Euro 2012 campaign began with a 1-1 draw with reigning European and World champions Spain and another point against Croatia, finishing as pool runners-up after beating the Rep of Ireland.

Their quarter-final ended in a penalty shoot-out win against England, the highlight of which was a cool Panenka chip from playmaker Andrea Pirlo.

The Azzurri faced Germany in the semis, a team tipped for European success. However, a Mario Balotelli double sent Die Mannschaft packing. Italy came up against Spain in the final, but were outmatched as La Roja put on a footballing lesson.

You have to go way back to 1968 for the last and only Azzurri success at the Euros – their first major competition since the 1938 World Cup, beating Yugoslavia in Rome. Coral offer top odds of 18/1 for Italy to go all the way again.

Head coach: Antonio Conte has altered his formation constantly, but seems to be leaning towards a settled back three of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini – a trio that served him well when he was Juventus boss.

Former Juve manager Conte won three successive Serie A titles playing his trademark dynamic 3-5-2 system. Seemingly Chelsea bound after the Euros, he possesses supreme tactical nous and is a real innovator, even playing an unorthodox 4-2-4 formation during his time in Bari.

Key player: Chiellini is a master defender and crucial to Italy if they hope to progress. The left-footed centre back is one of world football’s best, combining ruthless tackling with a superb smooth passing ability.

The Azzurri’s defensive trio from Turin allow bolder attacking choices further up the field and accommodate dynamic wing backs like Emanuele Giaccherini, Alessandro Florenzi and Matteo Darmian.

Rising star: Fiorentina forward Federico Bernardeschi is an exciting prospect and made his senior international debut in March against Spain, assisting Lorenzo Insigne’s goal.

Bernardeschi is quick, strong and blessed with superb technical skills. This wide midfielder can play on either flank and possesses the tactical versatility and work ethic Conte adores. Scoring four times in the Viola’s Europa League campaign, he also tracks back and makes the defensive contributions necessary.

Wildcard: Insigne is a player to watch this summer. Napoli’s attacking midfielder has double figures for goals and assists this term, so has recently found favour with Conte after resolving their previous misunderstandings.

Like Bernardeschi, Insigne is a versatile player but has exceptional passing ability, vision and is a constant goal threat. The creative midfielder combines hard work with quality end product and should be in Conte’s starting XI.

Confirmed Italy Euro 2016 fixtures:
All kick-offs are British Summer time (BST)
Monday, June 13th: Belgium v Italy (20:00); Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon, BBC
Friday, June 17th: Italy v Sweden (14:00); Stadium Municpal, Toulouse, ITV
Wednesday, June 22nd: Italy v Republic of Ireland (20:00); Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille, ITV

All odds were correct at time of posting.

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