World Cup: Bring on England, says Italy's Chiellini

World Cup: Bring on England, says Italy's Chiellini

They may have been drawn in the "Group of Death" for next month's World Cup Finals in Brazil.

But Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini is confident the Azzurri will prevail in Group D and be one of the two teams - Uruguay, England and Costa Rica are the other nations drawn with the Italians - to advance to the last 16.

Speaking exclusively to The New Paper at the Juventus Stadium after the "Grand Old Lady" captured their third successive Serie A title on Sunday, the 29-year-old cited history, claiming Italy usually thrived in tough situations at World Cups.

"Look at 1982 and 2006, when we won (the World Cup). We struggled at the start, people (wrote us off), but we grew stronger and stronger in the competition," said the centre back.

"It won't be easy, of course, especially with the climate in Manaus and Recife (where Italy will face England and Costa Rica, respectively).

"Italy is Italy; we will start slow, but if we can clear the group, I'm confident we will be the team to beat. And we can go all the way to the final."

Italy will kick off their World Cup campaign on June 15 against England, before facing Costa Rica (June 20) and Uruguay (June 24).

Chiellini, already capped 67 times by his country, will likely start for Cesare Prandelli's side in Brazil, alongside veterans like Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi.

Currently, the preliminary squad of 30 boast a total of 864 caps - easily making the Azzurri one of the most experienced sides among the 32 for next month's tournament.

More importantly, Chiellini pointed out that the Italian team are almost the same one that reached the final of Euro 2012, where they lost to Spain 4-0.

"Experience is our strength," said the 1.89-metre tall defender, who has more than 300 appearances for Juventus.

"Between this team and the one from 2012, there have been very few changes.

"The team's philosophy, attitude and ability are almost the same. Maybe now, we are even stronger.

"Playing in the Confederations Cup (in Brazil) last year was very important, because it meant we had already started our World Cup (campaign).

"It gave us a good feel of the climate and the atmosphere. Now, we just have to go back there in the best condition possible." Italy, four-time world champions (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) - just one shy of Brazil's record of five - finished third at the 2013 Confederations Cup, after losing on penalties to Spain in the semi-finals.

Traditionally rock solid in defence and boosted by the irrepressible Pirlo pulling the strings in midfield, Prandelli's only worry is goals.

In the current squad, the highest international goalscorer is midfielder De Rossi with 15 goals.

Main striker Mario Balotelli has 12 in 29 appearances, which is not a bad return, but there is always a concern with the volatile AC Milan forward.

Win or lose in Brazil, Chiellini and his Juventus teammates Pirlo, Buffon and Claudio Marchisio will be on their way to Singapore on Aug 16.

They will face a Singapore Selection at the new 55,000-capacity National Stadium and it will be Chiellini's second visit to the Republic.

"I was there last summer for vacation," he said, breaking into a smile.

"I did all the tourist stuff, and some non-tourist stuff, too. It's a beautiful place, and I'm excited to go back.

"To be honest, I don't know much about Singapore football, but the team will surely (do research) before we head there.

"Even if we reach the final in Brazil (on July 13), we will reserve some energy for the Singapore game, don't worry."

This article was published on May 20 in The New Paper.

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