Italy eye semifinal spot
Cesare Prandelli and Mario Balotelli
Last year’s European runners-up have been frequently criticized that they are only in Brazil for the samba and notorious nightlife after they qualified for the tournament via the backdoor, as Spain- European Champions- had already qualified as World Champions.
Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli had stated coming into the tournament that his side will be taking the event seriously, despite what has been said otherwise.
And they proved their case when they beat Mexico 2-1 in the opening group game, in which Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli dazzled at the historic ground of the Maracana.
“It was a convincing start,” said Gianluigi Buffon after the game. “We faced a team that we respected, who are well organised and put us under tactical and physical pressure.
“We want to be competitive, which we already proved at Euro 2012. We want to raise the bar every time. Finishing in the top four of this Confederations Cup would already be a good result and a sign of consistency.”
Now, the four-time World Champions will be hoping to continue adding spice to the competition by booking their ticket to the semifinal of the tournament with a win at the Arena Pernambuco.
But there is one man who is particularly eager to cause an upset to his homeland and that is Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni.
The Italian tactician’s side tasted a 3-0 defeat to Brazil, in their opening Group A game last Saturday, and they will be eager to steal a win off the Italians to break the group wide open.
And with so much pressure riding on the Italians to do the business, Prandelli feels that the Asian outfit has a ‘slight edge’ over his star-studded line-up.
“Japan will have the slight edge, I think, because they have an extra day of rest. Plus, Alberto [Zaccheroni] knows us very well, he knows how we work,” said the former Fiorentina coach.
“I expect him to prepare a trap for us. From tonight, we will begin planning for the Japan game. I trust that he will come up with an interesting strategy against us.”
Often considered as a bogey team for the Italians, the Blue Samurais will be hoping that their tenacity and organization will once again get the better of the Azzurri so that they can, finally, start entertaining their dreams of reaching the final.