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World Cup Player Profile: Leonardo Bonucci

With the World Cup now a matter of days away, we profile the Juventus players who will feature in Brazil.

Claudio Villa

Leonardo Bonucci has been a very polarizing personality for Juventus and Italy. Equal parts fan favorite and national villain, Bonnie has been a mainstay of the almost impregnable Juve defence and has been part of the national setup for a few years now.

He started off his career playing for Inter Milan in 2005-06, but luckily came to his senses and went to first Treviso, then Pisa on loan and on to Bari before Juve picked him up in 2010. When Antonio Conte came on board in 2011, it was expected that Bonucci would drop to the bench with Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli starting as center backs in a 4-4-2. However, Conte found a way to get all three on the field with a three-man backline. He went on to debut with the Azzurri just before the 2010 World Cup.

Renowned for his composure on the ball and his distribution skills, Conte has often utilized his vision to launch attacks when Andrea Pirlo is otherwise occupied. Here's a great video showing his 2013-14 season highlights.

Italy
Defender
Caps: 37, Goals: 2
Group D

Leonardo Bonucci

Service for Italy: Bonucci has 37 caps for Italy, with two goals and one assist, always as a center back on the field for Gli Azzurri. He was in the squad that traveled to South Africa for the 2010 Cup, then played in every game as Italy went to the finals of Euro 2012. He made three appearances in the 2013 Confederations Cup, including the semis when his missed penalty during the shootout sent Spain into the finals.

What makes him interesting: His calm demeanor on the ball should not be mistaken for a laid back attitude. He plays hard, is not afraid to get into challenges and always has his head on a swivel looking for players making a deep run. He is prone to lapses of concentration, especially from set pieces which has led to opponents scoring, and is a part of his game that needs more work.

What to expect in Brazil: Italy's tough Group D means they cannot afford to get off to a slow start. They go up against England first, then Costa Rica and finish up against Uruguay — a seven-point haul in this group should be enough to secure first place and a berth in the second round against the runners-up in a weak Group C. If form holds true, Italy will go up against Spain in the quarters, looking for revenge for the Euro 2012 final spanking and the consequent shootout loss in the 2013 Confederations Cup. Should they surmount that challenge, they could feasibly be playing the winner of Argentina against Belgium for a spot in the World Cup Final. Not the easiest road to the trophy for sure.

Look for Bonucci to get some minutes coming off the bench in the group phase as Cesare Prandelli will try to get Barzagli some rest. The conditions are expected to be horrific for football and squad rotation to keep players fresh for the latter rounds might be what brings home the World Cup. Or, in the light of Mattia De Sciglio's injury which will see him miss out on Italy's opener against England, Chiellini might get drafted to play left back and see Bonucci or Gabriel Paletta come in alongside Barzagli in the middle. Prandelli has chosen to not send Di Sciglio home and bring in injury reserve Andrea Ranocchia into the squad.