Neymar, Pirlo

Anytime Brazil & Italy meet on the international stage, even when there’s not too much at stake, it’s interesting. The goal of their final group stage match? Avoiding Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinal, as both sides have already clinched their ticket to the next round.

The two teams have met in some classic world cup moments – two World Cup finals (1970, 1994), both won by Brazil. Their 1982 round of 16 match, with Italy winning 3-2 on a Paolo Rossi hat-trick, is considered as the best match ever in World Cup history. Even with sides that aren’t as impressive as those of the past, each encounter between the sides flows with history and potential greatness.

Italy are kind of lucky to be in this comfortable position. They played badly against Japan, but the Italians are efficient and clinical. Cesare Prandelli knows how to fix mistakes he makes early on in his lineup, and the introduction of Sebastian Giovinco, putting on a much more attacking side for the second half, enables his team to get some better looks at goal and eventually win the match.

Brazil haven’t been, well, amazing, but they’ve been good enough in both their matches, mostly thanks to a very good job in the midfield by Paulinho and Luis Gustavo, to dominate possession, and create most of the chances, enjoying the immense talents of Neymar, who has had a few moments of brilliance in both wins, scoring twice on volleys and providing a beautiful assist to Jo in the 2-0 win over Mexico.

Their last match (a friendly in Switzerland) ended in a 2-2 draw, Fred & Oscar scoring for Brazil, De Rossi and Balotelli scoring for Italy. This Brazilian team has struggled against quality European sides, and while Italy do mask around looking incompetent at times, their ability to hang in matches when they’re playing badly has been highly useful in recent matches.

Not too many changes will be made, but Dante is likely to start instead of David Luiz with his broken nose, while Jo, scoring twice in his cameo appearances, might get a chance instead of Fred.

For Italy, Claudio Marchisio should find himself back in the lineup instead of the slow and disappointing Alberto Aquilani, although it’s not likely for Prandelli to start out with a side that’s too offensive.

Predictions – A draw sounds reasonable considering the situation, with both teams not too hellbent on winning. Italy don’t play too reckless in any case, so a 1-1 or 2-2 draw sounds like a very reasonable turn of events.

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