The toughest challenge when making an all-time Italy XI is the defensive line.

The Azzuri, being a nation that has lifted 4 World Cups, are known for their production of defensive legends, with the likes of Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro, being just a few of them.

Formation : 4-2-3-1

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon

Gigi is widely considered as one of the best goalkeepers we've ever seen. His outstanding shot-stopping ability and his great personality are the reasons he is the most capped player in the Italian national team's history, with 137 appearances.

Right-Back: Paolo Maldini

Yeah, I know, the great Paolo Maldini never actually played as a right-back (even though he could do it perfectly), but this is the best possible way to put almost every legendary Italian defender in one squad.

Maldini is one of the greatest leaders of his generation, commanding the defence with his genius tackling and marking skills.

Centre-Back: Franco  Baresi

Undoubtedly one of the finest central defenders ever, Franco Baresi had a beautiful career for both his club and country. Known as "Piscinin" (Little One) he could dominate every striker of the opposition with his glorious tackling and marking skills and his excellent positioning.

Centre-Back: Fabio Cannavaro

Even though Gaetano Scirea was probably a greater player, Cannavaro makes the cut for his outstanding performances in the 2006 World Cup.

Such performances that led Italy to celebrate the title - and led him to win the Ballon d'Or at the end of the year.

Left-Back: Giacinto Facchetti

Facchetti is considered one of the greatest left-backs to ever play the game. He was also one of the first true attacking full-backs who used to surge forward and participate in every attacking play.

He was a physical monster, nearly impossible to dribble past - also serving as Italy’s leader for many years, winning 94 caps.

Defensive-Midfielder: Marco Tardelli

An indispensable member of the Azzuri's squad in the 70's and 80's, Tardelli is mostly remembered for his goal celebration in the 1982 World Cup final. 

He could fit perfectly as a box-to-box or a defensive-midfielder, as he provided a great balance in the midfield with his passing skills, great tackling and positioning.

Centre-Midfielder: Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo's lovely style of play made him one of the leading exponents of his position. He single-handedly reinvented the old position of Regista, the deep-lying playmaker, and he is the leader of the current Italian midfield, providing great short and long passes, excellent touch and control of the ball.

He also chips in with his deadly set-pieces.

Right-Midfielder: Roberto Baggio

Regarding raw football talent and skill-set, Baggio is probably the best Italian player ever.

The Divine Ponytail won the Ballon d’or in 1993, and, despite famously missing that penalty in the 1994 final, played a tremendous tournament.

He proved himself in every other possible way, passing defenders with every way imaginable, setting phenomenal free-kicks and making the crowd get on their feet every time he touched the ball.

Attacking-Midfielder: Alessandro Del Piero

The Juventus legend never really managed to tap his full potential for his country, but no-one can deny his excessive talent.

Armed with an all-encompassing range of shooting, vision, great technique and goalscoring ability, he was able to win 97 caps for Italy - and score 27 goals.

Left-Midfielder: Gianni Rivera

Considered Italy's golden boy, Gianni Rivera is one of the Azzuri's most creative players ever. The 1969 Ballon d'Or winner was an elegant dribbler with passing and playmaking abilities matched by only a really small amount of players in his time.

Centre-Forward: Giuseppe Meazza

His name is widely known as the re-name of the San Siro stadium.

The Italian forward who was known as "Peppino", was an incredibly prolific scorer, remembered for his hallmark shots, speed and dribbling ability. 

He won the 1934 and 1938 World Cups with Italy, being the outstanding star in both of them.

Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here:

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: