Zaccheroni: Italy more than just Pirlo & Balotelli

The 60-year-old insists that the Azzurri possess plenty of quality 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 when they take on Italy in the Confederations Cup on Wednesday.

The Samurai Blue face 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 coming up against the country of his birth in "extraordinary" circumstances when the two sides meet - believes that 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," he told a press conference. "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.

18/1 Japan are 18/1 with Coral to beat Italy 2-1
"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, with the country's coaches doing well across the world.

"There may be three Italian coaches as the World Cup next year: Prandelli, myself, and Fabio Capello," he noted, while Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni could also appear. "This would be a new record. To my recollection Italy's top managers have never gone overseas.

"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 that 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," he remarked. "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.

"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."