World Soccer: Brazil were the last side to successfully defend the trophy back in 1962. Do you agree it is harder to win the World Cup the second time around?
Fabio Cannavaro: Retaining the World Cup is undoubtedly the toughest mission. When you go into the tournament as the reigning champions you have all eyes on you and that increases the pressure. On the pitch, every team you face raises their game because they know you are the champions and they are desperate to be remembered as the side which beat the World Cup holders. They want to write their own chapter of football history, but we expect this and we will be ready.
Which teams do you think will be the biggest dangers to Italy in South Africa?
Spain, England and Brazil are the teams I believe will be the strongest. Spain showed at Euro 2008 that they are a side with great talent and vision, and Brazil are always a team that is dangerous at the World Cup. England have some great players and in Fabio Capello they have one of football’s great managers.
How does the current Italy side compare to the one that beat France four years ago?
Of course, there have been some changes since 2006, but the spine of the team has remained intact and I believe we will be strong again. It is inevitable that the squad will alter between tournaments, but the fact we were required to play qualifying matches means we have a settled team that is accustomed to each other.
What is the recipe for a successful tournament?
As I have said, you have to be focused from the first minute of the first game. You cannot afford any lapses. It is all about concentration because, on a stage such as the World Cup, one little mistake can cost you the match. It is a gathering of the best players in the world and, if you are not concentrated, you will be punished.
What is Italy’s great strength as you prepare for the finals?
I would say it is our unity and compactness. We have talented players, we have a great manager and we have the experience of lifting the trophy four years ago. But I believe
it is the togetherness of the Italy squad that will be the foundation on which we build in South Africa. Any team that dreams of success must have unity. We had it in 2006 and we have it again.
Which sides do you see as the dark horses of the tournament?
Both Serbia and Ghana could make a big impact. Serbia are technically very gifted and finished above France in qualifying, while Ghana are a very exciting team who reached the Final in the African Nations Cup.
How significant do you think the mild weather will be during the tournament?
It could be a big factor during the competition. They say the weather will be akin to a European autumn and that will certainly suit all the European teams who traditionally do not like to play in very hot conditions.