Italy and Brazil go head to head in Pretoria on Sunday and one of the football giants could wave goodbye to the Confederations Cup…
Kick-off: Sunday June 21, 2009, 20:30 CET,
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Same Ol’ Same Ol’
After labouring to a 3-1 win over ten-man USA, Italy appeared to be in the driving seat to qualify for the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup. But, as usual, the Azzurri proved unable to cruise through the group stage of an international competition without slipping on the classic banana skin.
Marcello Lippi’s men committed hara-kiri against a very organized Egypt side that had already given the Selecao a big scare on Monday, only succumbing to a late Kaka penalty in a 4-3 thriller.
Once again, the World Champions looked devoid of ideas and struggled to create clear-cut chances in a dismal first half. And the Egyptians made the most of Italy’s familiar defensive frailties, which were exposed again when Homos was allowed to leap, undisturbed by markers, to head home a corner.
Despite some late huffing and puffing, Italy were hopelessly unable to break down the Egyptians and now risk an early exit from the competition.
Nonetheless, the Azzurri’s fate is still in their own hands, as they would secure passage to the semi-finals by defeating Brazil by a two-goal margin on Sunday, regardless of Egypt’s result in their final game against the Americans.
But it is frankly hard to imagine Lippi’s ‘old men’, whom he so strenuously defends to deflect attention from the plethora of young talent he continues ignoring, keeping a clean sheet against the flamboyant Brazilians.
Brazil Turn On The Style
After a topsy-turvy debut against Egypt, the Selecao steamrollered the USA on Thursday in a 3-0 win which virtually booked their place in the semi-finals of the competition.
Carlos Dunga’s troops made light work of the Americans and took a two-goal lead within 20 minutes through Fiorentina midfielder Felipe Melo and Manchester City striker Robinho.
Inter wing-back Maicon, who played his first full match since suffering a muscular injury last March, rounded off the result in spectacular fashion in the second half after exchanging passes with new Real Madrid signing Kaka.
“I'm happy with the way things have turned out,” Maicon said after the encounter.
“Especially after two months working to recover from my injury. I trusted in my potential and I'm glad the coaches gave me an opportunity to play from the start.”
The South Americans will now just need a draw against Italy to secure top spot in Group B and probably avoid European champions Spain in the next round.
Brazil currently lead the group with six points, while Italy are on three with a three-goal difference separating them from the Selecao. This means a two-goal defeat by Italy on Sunday could see Dunga’s men crash out of the competition if Egypt overcome the USA by three clear goals.
But statistics smile on Brazil who have not tasted defeat against the Azzurri since 1982, when Italy triumphed 3-2 in Barcelona on their way to winning their third World Cup.
Brazil prevailed 2-0 in a friendly international played in London last February to take the lead in the head-to-head with six victories to their name. Italy have five and there have also been two draws.
18/06 (Confederations Cup): Italy-Egypt 0-1
15/06 (Confederations Cup): USA-Italy 1-3
10/06 (Friendly): Italy-New Zealand 4-3
06/06 (Friendly): Italy-Northern Ireland 3-0
01/04 (World Cup Qualifier): Italy-Republic of Ireland 1-1
18/06 (Confederations Cup): Brazil-USA 3-0
15/06 (Confederations Cup): Brazil-Egypt 4-3
10/06 (World Cup Qualifier): Brazil-Paraguay 2-1
06/06 (World Cup Qualifier): Uruguay-Brazil 0-4
01/04 (World Cup Qualifier): Brazil-Peru 3-0
Lippi will presumably stick with his rotation policy in attack and Alberto Gilardino is likely to reclaim a starting shirt, with in-form Vincenzo Iaquinta and Giuseppe Rossi completing the trident.
Possible formation: Buffon; Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Grosso; Gattuso, Pirlo, De Rossi; Rossi; Gilardino, Iaquinta.
Roma defender Juan sat out the match against the USA, but should return to the starting XI on Sunday, while Robinho and Luis Fabiano will continue upfront with Kaka in support.
Possible formation: Julio Cesar, Alves, Lucio, Juan, Kleber, Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo, Elano, Kaka, Robinho, Luis Fabiano.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Vincenzo Iaquinta (Italy)
The Juventus striker is evidently in superb form, albeit he squandered a host of good chances to spare Italy’s blushes against Egypt. Pharaos’ goalkeeper Essam El Hadary performed miracles to deny him at the Ellis Park Stadium, but his pace could prove crucial to exploit the Brazilians’ typical defensive lapses.
The Real Madrid star has already netted two goals in the tournament and will be eager to add to his tally when facing some of his former team-mates and opponents. Last season’s injury nightmare seems finally behind him, but the shaky Italian back-line could live one on Sunday.
The apathetic Italy seen in the first two games has little chance to trouble the rampant Brazilians and the men in light-blue will be storming travel agencies next week…
Italy 1-3 Brazil
Vince Masiello, Goal.com