Italy edged really close to a place in the semi-finals
as they defeated Mexico in their opening game, but another victory is a must if the Azzurri are to avoid any surprises. Following the heavy defeat to Brazil, Japan need at least one point from this game to remain in contention for a semi-final berth, but that is easier said than done.
It’s been a while since Italy last impressed in the build up to a major tournament, but under-par showings in warm-up games never stopped the Azzurri from impressing at tournament finals. Similar thing happened again as Cesare Prandelli’s men struggled in the World Cup qualifier against Czech Republic and friendly with Haiti, only to produce an excellent showing in their opening Confederations Cup game against Mexico. While usual suspects Andre Pirlo and Mario Balotelli got on the scoresheet, the entire team played really well despite Prandelli fielding an experimental 4-3-2-1 formation. However, having done so well against very good Mexico side, Italy can be trusted to continue the rich vein of form against out-of-sorts Japan, especially since it is their opponents that are under pressure at the moment.
Following some pretty decent showings in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies, Japan were seen as one of the dark horses at the 2013 Confederations Cup, but they were utterly disappointing in their opening game. While nobody really expected Alberto Zaccheroni’s side to defeat the tournament hosts, they were tipped to show much more in the opening match, but the likes of Honda, Kagawa and Nagatomo were unable to make any impact on the night. With the Blue Samurai now facing a must-win game, chances are they won’t be able to produce their best performance against in-form Italy, with the lack of quality and experience likely to prove a problem against one of Europe’s top sides. Japan did really well to qualify for this tournament, but I just cannot see them making it to the semi-finals, especially with Italy standing in their way.