Jun 11, 2014, 6:25 PM EDT
Italy may be long shots to win the 2014 World Cup but don’t tell that to Andrea Pirlo, who is convinced the Azzurri can win this summer’s tournament.
“We can win the World Cup,” Pirlo told reporters on Wednesday.
“I always play to win and I won’t be satisfied by just getting out of the group stage or into the quarter-finals. This Italy team has everything it need to go all the way.”
Pirlo would know. It was his cool penalty that helped Italy out-duel France (5-3) in the 2006 World Cup final shootout. That victory secured the Italians fourth World Cup after capturing titles in 1934, 1938 and 1982.
To earn a fifth world title, Italy must advance through an extremely difficult Group D containing England, Uruguay and Costa Rica. Cesar Prandelli’s side open their campaign on Saturday in Manaus when they take on England.
The last time the Italians faced England was in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 where a clean-shaven Pirlo sent a luscious panenka penalty past an over-eager Joe Hart to help claim shootout victory after a goalless draw.
Even with that in his back pocket the level-headed Pirlo knows that England are a much improved side. “England have improved a lot, they have rejuvenated their squad with young players who can cover a lot of ground. We have a very different style of play but we have a good record against them,” he said.
In the past 35 years, England and Italy have played seven competitive fixtures with Italy winning five times, England winning once and the two sides drawing twice (with Italy winning one of those matches in penalties in the 2010 Euro quarter-final).
Following Saturday’s match Italy face Costa Rica on Friday, June 20th in Recife and Uruguay on Tuesday, June 24th in Natal.
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