Alberto Zaccheroni will try to put one over on his home country as he seeks to keep his Japan side alive in the Confederations Cup. The former Milan and Juventus coach knows that a defeat against Italy in Recife on Wednesday would almost certainly mean Japan heading home at the first opportunity, following their opening loss to Brazil.
“When I started off coaching I never imagined I would be coaching a team playing against Italy and not in a friendly but a very important competition,” Zaccheroni said, according to FIFA. After a 3-0 defeat to the hosts, the challenge is unlikely to get any easier against an Italy side that were runners-up in last year’s European Championship and began their Confederations Cup with a solid 2-1 win over Mexico.
The Asian champions appeared hamstrung in their opening loss by having been involved in World Cup qualifying action across the globe just days earlier. And Zaccheroni is hoping for a better showing this time around.
"We are aware we are up against the vice champions of Europe, and they have got quality right through the team,” he explained. “We will do our best. On June 4, we played Australia and several players just joined up with us the day before as they were playing abroad so there was not much chance to rest.”
With Japan now having had an extra day’s rest under their belt than Italy and with his opposite number’s inside knowledge, Cesare Prandelli believes that his side go into the match as underdogs.
“Japan will have the slight edge, I think, because they have an extra day of rest,” he said. “Plus, Alberto knows us very well, he knows how we work. I expect him to prepare a trap for us. From tonight, we will begin planning for the Japan game.”
Italy coach Prandelli continued to show his tactical versatility against Mexico as he started in a 4-3-2-1 formation and he is likely to stick with that formula against Japan. There could be changes to the personnel, however, with suggestions that Fiorentina midfielder Alberto Aquilani will come in for Claudio Marchisio and Christian Maggio may replace Ignzaio Abate at right back.
D: Maggio, Barzagli, Chiellini, De Sciglio
M: Montolivo, Pirlo, De Rossi
D: Uchida, Konno, Yoshida, Nagatomo
M: Hasebe, Endo
Kiyotake, Honda, Kagawa
Prediction: Japan should be better in this match having had time to both rest and get acclimatized to their time zone. However, the same problems that have long been apparent with Japan are unlikely to be so easily healed. For all their technical ability in midfield, they lack real quality at both ends of the pitch. With Italy also possessing gifted midfielders on the ball, it promises to be an encounter that is pleasing on the eye. It is Italy, though, with the greater quality throughout and they should pick up the win.
Italy 2-0 Japan
Where to watch: The Confederations Cup Group A match will kick-off at 6 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream available on Watch ESPN.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.