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Meet the quarter-final opposition: Italy

More than just an ironclad defensive unit, Italy excelled in their victory against holders Spain and have been driven forward by tremendous team spirit and a restless coach.

Italy revel in their eye-catching win against Spain
Italy revel in their eye-catching win against Spain ©AFP/Getty Images

Nickname: Azzurri

Story so far: Italy caught the attention with the 2-0 Group E win against Belgium in their opening UEFA EURO 2016 fixture, and everybody has been taking note since their impressive defeat of holders Spain by the same scoreline in the last 16. Their tactical astuteness and burgeoning team spirit have got people talking about the Squadra Azzurra in the highest tones.

Route to last eight: 2-0 Belgium, 1-0 Sweden, 0-1 Republic of Ireland, 2-0 Spain

Star performer: The rock at the heart of the Italian rearguard, Leonardo Bonucci is not only earning rave reviews as Italy's standout individual, he can arguably lay claim to being one of the best central defenders in the world.

Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pellè scored against Spain
Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pellè scored against Spain©AFP/Getty Images

Best moment: The sight of Daniele De Rossi nutmegging Andrés Iniesta can only be eclipsed by the scenes of jubilation that have greeted every Italy goal, not least their second against Spain when the entire bench raced to congratulate Graziano Pellè.

Strengths: Italy boast arguably the strongest defence in the tournament, built on the foundation of four Juventus players – Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini – who could keep out the very best attackers blindfolded.

Weaknesses: The central midfield position is causing the most problems, with De Rossi's condition a concern and Thiago Motta suspended for the last eight. Losing Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti to injuries before the finals already made this area Antonio Conte's biggest headache.

Germany and Italy's past EURO meetings
Germany and Italy's past EURO meetings

Quarter-final prediction: There is no reason Italy cannot beat Germany, given the football they have been playing in France and the amazing spirit in the ranks. Joachim Löw's men certainly do not scare the Italians and I expect another win for the Azzurri.

What are they singing? A wordless chant of the riff from the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army

Celebrity fans: Valentino Rossi (motorcycle racer), Sylvester Stallone (actor)

Tell us something we didn't know: Italy are the side covering the most ground on the pitch, and their coach is doing likewise off it. "Our physical trainer proposed to put a GPS tracker on me to gauge how many kilometres I run and how intensely," Conte admitted after another marathon in the technical zone – and at times beyond – against Spain.