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Could Italy Win a 4th Soccer World Cup Title? - 2002-05-14

Italy is one of the nations synonymous with World Cup football. The Italians are again in the finals, this time hosted by South Korea and Japan. Italy is one of the nations with a strong chance of winning the title.

Italy has won three World Cup championships, tied with Germany and one less than Brazil. Italy is also making its 11th straight appearance and 15th overall, again tied with Germany and two behind Brazil. International football commentator Derek Rae thinks Italy's path to the title is wide open this year, beginning with its first round opponents in Japan in Group "G."

"A number of things have fallen kindly for Italy," he said. "One is, I think, a very favorable draw to begin with. Croatia is a team that can match them. I do not think Mexico and Ecuador can. And then when they get to the knockout stage, as I am sure they will, they will find that the draw is more favorable than it would be in the other half."

Mr. Rae is impressed with the way Italy wins and the talent it fields. "What Italy does best is grind out victories," he said. "They have on paper one of the best defenders in the World Cup finals this time with Paolo Maldini (AC Milan) and Alessandro Nesta (Lazio), key figures there for Giovanni Trappatoni, the coach. And then it is a question of whether they can turn on the style up front. And on that front they will be depending on Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus) and Francesco Totti (AS Roma)."

Italy's defense has been very prominent in recent months, surrendering just one goal in their final seven World Cup qualifying matches. Italy's three World Cup titles were won in 1934, 1938 and 1982.