RECIFE (Sporting Alert) — Italy will go into tonight’s game needing another win to book a place in the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup when they take on Japan in Group A at the Arena Pernambuco.
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At the same time, Italy will also be hoping leading striker Mario Balotelli doesn’t do something “silly” again and pick up another yellow card after getting one for lifting his shirt after scoring the winner against Mexico in the opening game.
Japan, who were beaten by Brazil 3-0 in the tournament opener last week, are led by Manchester United attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa and CSKA Moscow’s Keisuke Honda and Italy coach Cesare Prandelli believes they will be tough to face.
“Japan will have the slight edge, I think, because they have an extra day of rest,” Prandelli said.
“Plus, Alberto knows us very well, he knows how we work. I expect him to prepare a trap for us.
“I trust that he will come up with an interesting strategy against us.”
Meanwhile, Japan, who have already qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, are hoping to deliver a better performance than the one against Brazil.
“We were too defensive against Brazil,” Japan captain Makoto Hasebe said.
“It’s a shame we lost, but they’re a strong team and they had the crowd behind them. All of that definitely affected us.”
Andrea Pirlo, who scored a stunning free-kick for Italy in the first game, is against expected to be a key player for the Azzurri.
“He’s the head of the team. A fantastic footballer. We’re going to have to put him off his stride early in the match,” Hasebe said.
“Italy have always had a great team. They’re defensively sound and supremely well organised.”
Alberto Aquilani, Daniele De Rossi, Riccardo Montolivo and Giorgio Chiellini are all starters for Italy.
For Japan Yasuhito Endo starts again with Ryoichi Maeda coming into the starting side as well.
Italy v Japan
Italy: Buffon, Maggio, Barzagli, Chiellini, De Sciglio, Pirlo, Montolivo, De Rossi, Aquilani, Giaccherini, Balotelli
Subs: Sirigu, Astori, Candreva, Marchisio, Giovinco, Gilardino, El Shaarawy, Cerci, Bonucci, Abate, Diamanti, Marchetti
Japan: Kawashima, Uchida, Yoshida, Konno, Nagatomo, Hasebe, Endo, Okazaki, Honda, Kagawa, Maeda
Subs: Nishikawa, Inoha, Gotuko Sakai, Kiyotake, Havenaar, Hosogai, Nakamura, Kurihara, Inui, Takahashi, Hiroki Sakai, Gonda
Referee: Diego Abal (Argentina)