By Ricardo Pessoa in Recife, Brazil
Andrea Barzagli has admitted Italy were surprised by Japan in the Confederations Cup cracker played in the Arena Pernambuco in Recife.
The 4-3 victory for Italy has ensured they have qualified for the semi-finals and will now play Brazil on June 22, to decide the first place of the group, while Japan will attempt to get their first victory in the tournament against point-less Mexico.
But the Juventus centre-half Barzagli said he was shocked by the level of quality from the Asian Cup champions, who are now eliminated.
“We didn’t expect such a strong side, even if we know they had good players. Honda was fantastic, he could be a starter in any team in the world and everyone knows Kagawa," he told Goal.
"But it wasn’t just them, it’s a very well organised side."
However, Barzagli noted that the 85 per cent humidity and the high temperature were also to blame for the performance of the Azzurri.
“The conditions were quite difficult. It was very humid and we only had two days to recover from the match against Mexico," he added.
"It’s not an excuse but those things obviously affect the way a team plays a high-intensity match."
The 32-year old-defender considered that Italy struggled to pick up the pace of the match but once they did, things were different.
“They were fantastic in the first half, very intense, and took that 2-0 lead," he continued.
"But when [Daniele] De Rossi scored we were back in the game. Still, it could have gone either way, but I think we were quite brave and our victory is not undeserved."