Faith back home
As per usual, there's a lot of confidence in the Italian media and amongst the fans that the class of 2012 can go really far in this tournament. That seems to be the norm before every tournament. Of course that leads to serious disappointment when they flop, as they did two years ago in South Africa.
But Italy's record in major tournaments is right up there with the best so maybe confidence is justified and everyone seems pretty happy with the 23 that Cesare Prandelli has selected.
Prandelli in charge
Prandelli has big boots to fill. Roberto Donadoni's time with the national team wasn't a happy one (Euro 2010) and Marcello Lippi's second spell with Italy (2010 World Cup) wasn't any better but Lippi is a mammoth figure of European football and was of course the man who led Italy to glory in 2006. That's hardly something you forget just because the next World Cup was a failure.
One thing is for sure: the current Italian boss is his own man with his own ideas and it's pretty obvious who's in charge. He dropped Mario Balotelli when the City striker was serving a domestic suspension and made no apologies for that. The same happened with other players. I think the fans would like to see Italy being a little more adventurous, score a few more goals and entertain a bit more but that's hardly the Italian way, is it? They'll certainly take results over flair.
The betting scandal
If the ongoing betting scandal that hit Serie A over the past few weeks had been in England or Germany I'm not sure how the national team would have coped. But in Italy it's almost the norm for something like this to happen, there always seems to be some sort of chaos going on. Maybe everyone would be bored if there wasn't an ongoing drama.
Because it's nothing new, the Italy players know how to get on with the job in hand without getting caught up in it all. There's a siege mentality that's created and Italy seem to thrive off it all. It becomes a case of "us against the world" . Let's not forget that on the eve of the 2006 World Cup the exact same thing happened. What was the result? The squad was more united than ever and they won the whole thing.
The talking point
Ever since Roberto Baggio's "Divine Ponytail" stopped gracing the international stage, Italy have been crying out for a "fantasista". A number 10 who makes things happen, creates magic out of scraps. Alessandro Del Piero, Francesco Totti and many others tried to replicate their club form on the international stage in that role but none have succeeded. In 2006 both Totti and Del Piero were in the squad that won but neither had a great tournament.
Who can be that guy this time round? Alessandro Di Natale is a wonderful player and an even better finisher but at 34 it's asking a bit much of him to shine match after match with the games coming thick and fast. Antonio Cassano is another candidate but it's hard to say just how fit he is after missing much of the season with a heart condition; many thought he'd never play again. And that leaves Balotelli. You don't need me telling you how good he is and at the same time what a liability he can be. But if he has a great tournament Italy could all of a sudden become very much the team to beat.
Pirlo the pearl
If you asked me six years ago, four years ago and two years ago who Italy's key player was, the answer would be the same as that I'm about to give you ahead of this tournament: Andrea Pirlo. With the possible exception of Xavi, I'm not sure anyone in world football plays the game quite like him. He just sits there in the middle of the park and dictates the tempo of the whole game. He's an amazing player and it's no coincidence that in his first season at Juventus, he was the main man as they won the Serie A title for the first time in six years.
The same old story
Apologies for stating the obvious but as ever, Italy look extremely strong at the back with four Juve players likely to figure in their starting back five. They're good in midfield too where different players can play in different positions and adapt to different systems as the game progresses. But it's upfront that the problems arise, and that's hardly something new, either. The three I've mentioned already are more than capable of scoring goals. But will they?
There's no doubting that Italy love tournament football. They have a knack of knowing exactly what to do and how in terms of getting past each obstacle in their path. And they can think on their feet. We've had a player sent off? That's ok, we'll defend what we have. A penalty shoot-out, you say? No problem, we've seen it all before.
I'm not entirely sure they can go all the way this time though because I have concerns about the strikers and worry if they're capable of chasing the game if they go behind in the knock-out stages. So I'm backing them to go out at the semi-final stage at 5.59/2.
Back Italy to be eliminated in the semi-finals @ 5.59/2
Tony Dorigo won the English First Division with Leeds in 1992 and was capped by England 15 times. He also represented Torino in Italy and now works as a pundit for ESPN and Al Jezeera, where he is an expert on Serie A football.
Pick your team's Euros XI for the chance to win great prizes!
Fancy winning an iPad or an iPod Touch? Get involved with Betfair Facebook's 'Euro Selector App'. Simply pick the 11 players that you think will be selected to play for your chosen team in their next game. The person with the most points at the end of every round will win one of our great prizes. Go to Betfair Facebook for full details. Good luck!