Penpix of Italy's squad for World Cup finals

Fri Jun 6, 2014 7:44pm EDT

Italy's national soccer team pose for an official photo in Coverciano, near Florence, June 3, 2014. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

Italy's national soccer team pose for an official photo in Coverciano, near Florence, June 3, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito

(Reuters) - Italy's squad for the World Cup finals comprises the following 23 players:

Goalkeepers:

Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus). Age 36; 139 caps. Still one of the best goalkeepers in the world. The 2006 World Cup winner, who made his international debut in 1997, is set to play at his fourth World Cup and was also an unused squad player in 1998. Jokingly described as a "pensioner" by Franz Beckenbauer after a Champions League match last season. His mother was a discus thrower and his father a weightlifter. Overcame depression in 2003-04.

Mattia Perin (Genoa). Age 21; 0 caps. Still waiting for his first cap despite being regularly called up over the last two seasons. Was raised at Genoa although he spent last season on loan at relegated Pescara.

Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St Germain). Age 27; 8 caps. The former Palermo keeper, first given his chance by Walter Zenga, has become a crowd favorite at Paris St Germain since moving to the big spenders in 2011. Set a club record of 948 minutes - which included nine successive matches - without conceding a goal in Ligue 1 during the 2012-13 season. Italy's third-choice goalkeeper at Euro 2012.

Defenders:

Ignazio Abate (AC Milan). Age 27; 19 caps. Raised at AC Milan, where he has returned after a number of spells on loan. Originally a midfielder, has come into his own as right back, regularly joining the attack with powerful runs down the flank. His father, Beniamino, was a goalkeeper who played in Serie A with Udinese, Inter Milan and Cagliari.

Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan). Age 21. 10 caps. Highly promising fullback who can play on either flank, De Sciglio is one of the few Milan players to have been raised at the club. Suffered an injury-hit season but recovered just in time for Brazil. Sometimes compared to former Milan fullback Paolo Maldini, he played at the Confederations Cup last year.

Andrea Barzagli (Juventus). Age 33; 47 caps. Took part in Italy's successful 2006 World Cup campaign but fell out of favor after a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands at Euro 2008. Was recalled by coach Cesare Prandelli in 2011. Has flourished under Antonio Conte at Juventus and is a key part of their three-man defense that helped them win the last two Serie A titles. Also won the Bundesliga with VfL Wolfsburg in 2008-09.

Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus). Age 29; 67 caps. Linchpin of the Italy defense since Fabio Cannavaro quit international soccer after the 2010 World Cup and has won many admirers at home and abroad for his never-say-die attitude. Also presents a threat at set pieces. Collided with Cannavaro in a training session before Euro 2008, ruling his team mate out of the tournament.

Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus). Age 27; 36 caps. The third part of Juve's almost impregnable three-man defense, Bonucci stands out for his composure on the ball and ability to hit long passes out of defense. Was fined and banned for one game in 2012 for a notoriously blatant, and poorly executed, dive against Palermo, which he admitted was a bad example.

Gabriel Paletta (Parma). Age 28; 2 caps. Born in Argentina to Italian parents, Paletta was raised in Buenos Aires and played for Argentina at under-20 level. Raised at Banfield, he joined Liverpool in 2006 but the move to the Premier League proved to be premature and, playing only a handful of games, he returned home to join Boca Juniors. Things went much better when he moved to Parma in 2010, where he has become a consistently reliable performer. Made his Italy debut against Spain in March.

Matteo Darmian (Torino). Age 24; 1 caps. Previously uncapped, he came out of the blue to win his place in the squad after an excellent season when he helped Torino finish an impressive seventh in Serie A. Versatile, he has played on the right of a three-man defense and five-man midfield for Torino, but can also play in the center of defense and on the left. Made his debut against Ireland on May 31.

Midfielders:

Thiago Motta (Paris St Germain). Age 31; 20 caps. Brazilian-born player who represented the South Americans at the Gold Cup in 2003. However, as they fielded an under-23 team he was allowed by FIFA to change allegiance to Italy, for whom he was eligible to play through his grandfather, and made his debut in 2011. Played at Euro 2012. Although injury prone has won the Champions League with both Barcelona and Inter Milan and domestic titles in Spain, Italy and France.

Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan). Age 35; 108 caps. Deep-lying playmaker whose career found a second wind when he moved to Juventus after 10 seasons with AC Milan. The inspiration in Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning side, he missed two of their three games in South Africa through injury. An exceptional free-kick exponent who likes to dictate the pace of the game, although some regard his style of play as old fashioned.

Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma). Age 30; 94 caps. A dynamic midfielder, he can tackle, shoot and pass well, and is the squad's leading scorer at international level. One of the 2006 World Cup winners, and much less volatile nowadays but still prone to losses of temper and has fallen foul of Prandelli's disciplinary rules three times.

Claudio Marchisio (Juventus). Age 28; 43 caps. Chosen to fill the problem left-side berth in midfield. Adaptable player with a keen eye for goal and delightful touch. Has played a key role in Juve's Serie A dominance in the last three seasons. Made his Italy debut in 2009 and started every game at Euro 2012.

Antonio Candreva (Lazio). Age 27; 19 caps. Attacking midfielder who has established himself at Lazio this season after a fairly nomadic existence with spells at Udinese, Livorno, Juventus, Parma and Cesena. Made his Italy debut in 2009 but then had to wait three years for a recall. Prefers to play just behind the strikers but can also feature in a wider position.

Marco Parolo (Parma). Age 29; 3 caps. A late developer, Parolo spent the early part of his career moving around lower tier clubs and did not play in Serie A until 2010 with Cesena. Made one Italy appearance in 2011, another last year but was called up for the World Cup after an impressive season with Parma.

Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina). Age 29 (birthday July 7); 34 caps. A versatile, creative player with a good long-range shot, Aquilani has revived his career at Fiorentina after an unhappy three years with Liverpool which also saw him loaned to Milan and Juventus.

Marco Verratti (Paris St Germain). Age 21; 5 caps. Central midfielder whose outstanding technique and passing have led to comparisons with Pirlo. Raised at Pescara, helped them win promotion from Serie B in 2011-12 and then went straight to Paris St Germain without ever playing in Serie A. Despite establishing himself with PSG, Verratti he has been given surprisingly few chances with his country.

Forwards:

Mario Balotelli (AC Milan) Age 23; 29 caps. Ghanaian-born maverick who grew up with foster parents and later took Italian citizenship. Hugely gifted striker but question remains as to whether his talents or unpredictable behavior will prevail. Prandelli has generally shown enormous faith in him, despite some public warnings, and Super Mario performed well at Euro 2012. His time at Manchester City was eventful off the pitch as well as on it - for example, the day he set fire to his own house with fireworks indoors.

Ciro Immobile (Torino). Age 24; 2 caps. Another player who has come from nowhere this season to make the Italy squad. Having helped Pescara win promotion from Serie B in 2011-12, he then joined Genoa but scored only five goals in 2012/13 and none in the second half of the season. This season, however, he has been unstoppable, finishing as Serie A topscorer with 22 goals for Torino and winning his first Italy cap against Spain in March.

Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli). Age 22 (birthday June 4); 4 caps. At 1.63 meters he will be one of the shortest players in Brazil, Insigne can delight fans with his high-speed dribbling, just as much as he can exasperate them with his poor finishing. Born in Naples and raised at Napoli, he was loaned out to Foggia, Pescara and Cavese to gain experience before returning in 2012.

Alessio Cerci (Torino). Age 26; 11 caps. Forward with devastating pace who likes to play on the flanks has revived his career and improved his behavior since moving to Torino in 2012. Previously had an unhappy two years at Fiorentina where he became known for illegally parking his Maserati car around Florence. Began his career at Roma and also played for Brescia, Pisa and Atalanta.

Antonio Cassano (Parma). Age 31 (birthday July 12); 36 caps. Talented but volatile striker who was a regular under Prandelli up to and including Euro 2012. However, he then fell out of favor and was dropped but convinced the coach to recall him with an excellent season for Parma. Underwent heart surgery in November 2011 and embarrassed the team at Euro 2012 when he said that he hoped there were no gay players in the squad.

* Caps correct up to and including May 31

(Editing by Mike Collett and Toby Davis)

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