Gianluigi Buffon feels Italy will have a competitive advantage at the FIFA 2014 World Cup after their Confederations Cup exploits in Brazil.
Cesare Prandelli’s side finished third at last month’s tournament, which is traditionally treated as a dry run 12 months prior to the main event in international football.
Italy, crowned world champions a total of four times, enjoy a four-point cushion at the top of Group B in qualifying and look likely to return to Brazil next year to compete in the World Cup.
Having spent the best part of a month in the South American country at the Confederations Cup, Buffon believes it was a good fact-finding mission for himself and his Italy team-mates.
"We learnt so many little things that will help us prepare better for next year," the 35-year-old goalkeeper told FIFA's official website.
"From the weather to the level our opponents are at, there were lots of interesting details to take from it.
"I honestly think it's been great to have a dress rehearsal before the World Cup because it'll give us a small advantage over everyone else."
The Confederations Cup provided plenty of positives for Prandelli, as Italy showcased their attacking flair, although he will be slightly concerned that they conceded 10 goals.
A penalty shoot-out defeat against Spain in the semi-final cost them a shot at the title, but Italy bounced back to win on spot-kicks in the third-place play-off against Uruguay.
Buffon took centre stage by saving three penalties against Uruguay and added: "There's no doubt we did well overall, so that's satisfying.
"We showed we're a good team that's able to compete on an equal footing against anyone, which is a great quality to have.
"Another advantage is that we have a fantastic group of players, and that isn't always the case in a team, especially at international level."
While Italy were entertaining to watch in Brazil, Buffon is the first to admit that plenty of hard work awaits over the next year if Prandelli’s men are to challenge for World Cup glory.
"We're a side that's been improving steadily over the last few years," he said.
"We hope to continue that process to be able to get to where we want to be, but for now our focus isn't on drawing comparisons with other teams, but to reach the level we want to be at for Brazil 2014.
"I think we're on the right track, but it's a process so we constantly need to hone the finer details.
"We did well at the Confederations Cup and we upheld the reputation Italy has earned over the years. We'll try to do the same at the World Cup but we need to be in good form to do so.
"That's what we're working towards."
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