The Netherlands, who became the first team from Europe to qualify for the World Cup on Tuesday, have been joined in the finals by Italy. Cesare Prandelli's side defeated the Czech Republic, 2-1, on the eighth matchday, clinching the top spot in qualifying Group B.
Italy have had an impressive qualification campaign, having not lost at all in any of their competitive games. However, they were fortunate to be drawn in a group without any equal, with the teams scrapping over the playoff spot -- Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Armenia and Denmark -- all nowhere near the Azzurri's level.
It hasn't entirely been plain sailing, with Cesare Prandelli's side drawing away against Czech Republic and Bulgaria, and winning by unconvincing margins in their two matches against minnows Malta. Having said that, they've solidly completed the qualification task at hand, and have a habit of raising their game when it comes to the big international tournaments.
With a strong squad and Prandelli finally looking tactically settled after tinkering Claudio Ranieri would be proud of, Italy will be one of the outside contenders when the first ball is kicked in Brazil next summer.