Zaccheroni: Italy more than just Pirlo & Balotelli

The 60-year-old insists the Azzurri possess plenty of quality in their armoury and cannot be underestimated, as he reflects on the "extraordinary" feat of taking on his home nation
Alberto Zaccheroni has urged Japan to resist the temptation of focusing their attentions solely on Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli against Italy in the Confederations Cup on Wednesday.

The Samurai Blue take on the Azzurri in the second of their group matches, having suffered an opening-day loss to Brazil, while their opponents were guided to victory over Mexico thanks to goals from their two star men.

Yet Zaccheroni - who will be facing the country of his birth in "extraordinary" circumstances when the two sides eventually meet - believes it would be wrong of his players to neglect the rest of what Italy will have to offer.

"This is a step forward for us but it isn't the whole story. When I started coaching Japan I imagined a lot of scenarios, but leading a team that would play Italy in a competitive match like this wasn't one of them. This isn't an ordinary match," he said at a press conference.

"Italy have dangerous players other than Balotelli and Pirlo; as a team they're playing very well. But their connection is Italy's lifeline.

"We have to watch out for Pirlo and not allow Balotelli the space to collect the ball. If we can do that Pirlo will have to look for other options."

Zaccheroni then reflected on the changing face of the Italian game, as four fellow coaches from the Mediterranean nation - himself, Fabio Capello, Giovanni Trapattoni and Cesare Prandelli - could all be at the World Cup next year.

"There may be three Italian coaches as the World Cup next year: Prandelli, myself, and Fabio Capello. This would be a new record. To my recollection Italy's top managers have never gone overseas," he continued.

"Serie A is an important league and many famous coaches have gone to coach there, but Italian coaches rarely leave. But now the situation is different, and Italians play in France, England, and Spain.

"The players are looking for opportunities overseas and the managers don't want to become national coaches, but rather international coaches.

"As far as the national anthem is concerned, I'm the coach of Japan so out of respect for them I don't intend to sing the Italian national anthem."

A run of one win in Japan's last five matches has cranked up the pressure on Zaccheroni, but the 60-year-old claims he is not feeling the heat thanks to the passionate support of the country's fans.

"I'm under a lot of pressure from the media but it isn't that bad. Managers are under pressure in Italy too, but I don't understand Japanese so I don't read newspapers; so far the media have been patient with me," he remarked.

"I don't know if this will remain so for the next year but I'm able to coach the team in a great environment. Japan's stadiums are always full so we get a lot of support from the fans, and they're all passionate so we play better as a result.

"Our results are better at home than away because we get that support."