Brazil defender David Luiz believes Italy are "one of the favourites" to win the World Cup.
The Chelsea man says Cesare Prandelli's team will pose a major threat to Brazil's hopes of winning the tournament on home territory.
"They have a fantastic team," he told Italy's Corriere dello Sport. "They have the right mentality for these tournaments because they have players who know how to deal with pressure.
"Italy are one of the favourites for the World Cup, and it's no coincidence they already have four stars on their chests.
"When you are up against the Azzurri, you're never favourites. They're going to be great opponents and must be respected."
He praised midfielder Andrea Pirlo as a "footballing artist" and also singled out Antonio Candreva, saying: "During the Confederations Cup, I was also impressed by Candreva. I didn't know him that well, but he showed what great quality he has."
And Luiz warned that charismatic striker Mario Balotelli would pose a huge challenge to defenders and could potentially make the difference for the Italians.
"If he puts the right chip in his head, he could be one of the best strikers in the world," he said. "With the ball at his feet, he's one of the strongest, technically and physically."