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Confederations Cup

  • June 19, 2013
  • • 23:00
  • • Itaipava Arena Pernambuco, Recife, Pernambuco
  • Referee: D. Abal
  • • Attendance: 40489
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Italy-Japan Preview: Azzurri aiming to move closer to last four with victory

Italy-Japan Preview: Azzurri aiming to move closer to last four with victory

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Cesare Prandelli's men face a tough test against the Asian champions, coached by Italian Alberto Zaccheroni, but know a win could potentially seal a semi-final berth

Italy will be hoping to book a place in the Confederations Cup semi-final with victory over Japan on Wednesday at Arena Pernambuco, with Cesare Prandelli expected to keep faith with the same XI that beat Mexico 2-1 on Sunday.

Gianluigi Buffon is the only player from both sides that survives from the two nations' last meeting in an international friendly in 2001, though Prandelli could yet drop Emanuele Giaccherini for Stephan El-Shaarawy.

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, meanwhile, will be buoyed with Keisuke Honda's outing against Brazil on Saturday, with the CSKA Moscow player coming through unscathed despite previous injury worries.

With the Samurai Blue side needing a positive result to remain in the competition, Zaccheroni could well deploy Ryoichi Maeda up front and push Stuttgart's Shinji Okazaki out wide, as the Asian champions aim to spring a surprise.

  DID YOU KNOW?
  • Italy qualified for the tournament by virtue of finishing runners-up at Euro 2012 - Spain qualified as world champions, with the Azzurri invited as Uefa's representative.
  • The 2006 world champions last encountered Japan in an international friendly in Saitama in 2001.
  • Japan qualified for the Confederations Cup by winning the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha.
  • This is Italy's second appearance in the tournament, after also qualifying in 2009. In contrast, this is the Asian side's fifth campaign.
  • Italian national Alberto Zaccheroni (pictured right) coached extensively in Serie A, winning the Scudetto with Milan in 1998-99.
  • Italy sit eighth in the world rankings, with Japan lying in 32nd place.

Players to watch

A. Pirlo

Position: Midfielder

Games: 3

  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
The Juventus star capped off a landmark 100th cap at the weekend with a sumptous free-kick to see off Mexico, and even at 34 years of age, remains the Azzurri's midfield heartbeat. Pirlo's exquisite and elegant range of passing could well unlock the Japanese defence, who will be wary of the midfielder's ability.

K. Honda

Position: Attacker

Games: 3

  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
The CSKA Moscow player did well for his country in the opening day defeat to Brazil following fitness issues, and once more will provide the focal point of any Japanese attack against the Italians. His dribbling and creativity remains his greatest asset, and with the expected return of Ryoichi Maeda, Honda could thrive playing off the striker.

Editor's Prediction

The Azzurri face a tough test against the Samurai Blue, who themselves are fighting to remain in the competition after an opening day defeat to Brazil. Prandelli's side appeared comfortable at the weekend, and have enough ability to see off their Asian counterparts. Expect a low-scoring game, with Italy grinding out a narrow win.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Italy

Japan

Wins
1
1
0
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Italy ITA
Italy Italy
Draw
Japan JPN
Japan Japan
78%

Top 3 Predictions

Italy ITA
2 - 0
Japan JPN
Italy ITA
2 - 1
Japan JPN
Italy ITA
3 - 1
Japan JPN

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