Prandelli: Brazil World Cup favourites
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli believes Brazil will be the team to beat at next summer's World Cup but is confident that his side will also be among the challengers in 2014.
Prandelli returned from the Confederations Cup on Monday satisfied with the Azzurri's third-place finish and with plenty of positives to take from the dress rehearsal for next year's finals.
On their way to beating Uruguay in a penalty shootout to claim third place, Prandelli's men fell foul to the host nation, going down 4-2 in Rio de Janeiro in their final group game.
Although Italy had already clinched their berth in the semi-finals prior to that match, the performance of Brazil resonated with Prandelli, who feels they will be favourites.
"Brazil won and they deserved to," Prandelli said. "They were devastating. They are the favourites for 2014. They can only get even better."
Nevertheless, Prandelli saw enough from his own side in South America to feel confident that they can challenge for a place in the final, while the experience of the Confederations Cup will also help him with his planning for next summer, should Italy qualify.
"If we have the time to prepare for matches, then we can match anybody, otherwise it will come down to individual skill," he said. "This time, we had several players who only hit form at the end of the tournament and we cannot allow that to happen at the World Cup, where rest days are going to be fundamental.
"Our aim was to experiment. If you've got a car, you've got to work out whether it's an off-roader or a racing car. All in all, I think we have matured in terms of our mentality."
Italy are well on course for a return to Brazil next summer. They lead qualifying Group B by four points from Bulgaria with four games still to play, three of which - against Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Armenia - will be played at home.