Meeting for only the second time in history, the 2013 Confederations Cup match between Italy and Japan is obviously in favor of the European side, who are looking to secure their place in the semifinals by beating the Blue Samurai for a second time.
The only match played between the two sides was in 2001, a year before the World Cup in a friendly that ended in a 1-1 draw. That result in this match, taking place in Recife, won’t make things easier for both managers, both Italians, as it would mean Japan would still be forced to win their last match of the group stage, while Italy won’t be too sure going into their encounter with Brazil.
Italy looked like a dominant side, yet with their flaws, in the 2-1 win over Mexico, feeling a bit unlucky to concede that goal from Chicharito through a penalty. Their midfield, with Andrea Pirlo, De Rossi and Montolivo had no problem dictating the action, but weak performances from Marchisio, Giaccherini and Mario Balotelli (for most of the match) made things a bit tighter than they should have been.
Japan did enjoy some chances in their match against Brazil, but all of them came from outside the box, during some nice passing combinations between Endo, Kagawa and Honda. Unless they find a way to start producing some threats from a bit closer, nothing but a superb shot from Honda (most likely) is going to trouble Gianluigi Buffon too much.
Cesare Prandelli was the Fiorentina manager when Alberto Zaccheroni was still coaching in Italy. The 60 year old has been with Japan since after the World Cup, and has worked for AC Milan, Inter, Lazio and Juventus during his Serie A career, mostly remembered for winning the league title with Milan in 1999. Prandelli has already spoken about the fact that Italy might have to change their pyramid style a little bit, because of how much the opposing manager knows about them.
Japan will have the slight edge, I think, because they have an extra day of rest. Plus, Alberto knows us very well, he knows how we work. I expect him to prepare a trap for us. From tonight, we will begin planning for the Japan game. I trust that he will come up with an interesting strategy against us.
Predictions – In what should be a tactical encounter between two teams who don’t like to open up themselves too much for counter attacks, Italy’s quality and physical superiority, especially when it comes to their target man and centre backs, should be enough to secure their second win of the tournament and send Japan packing.