Published June 18, 2013
RECIFE, Brazil (AFP) – The task facing both, Asian champions Japan and three-time world champions Italy is clear cut in Recife at the Confederations Cup.
An Italian win on Wednesday, on the heels of Sunday's success over Olympic champions Mexico should propel the Azzurri into the semi-finals, while also ending the Blue Samurais' interest in this summer's event.
The pressure is off Japan to a large extent in that, aside from World Cup and Confederations hosts Brazil they are the only side competing here who have already booked their tickets for next summer's jamboree.
In going down 3-0 to the Brazilians in the opening match, Alberto Zaccheroni's Japanese showed the effects of a long, yet successful, qualifying World Cup campaign - they only arrived 72 hours after seeing off Iraq in the Gulf.
They also showed - AS Zaccheroni tacitly admitted - that they are at this stage a work in progress with 12 months to plan next year's assault.
"What we must not do is repeat the mistakes of the Brazil game," said midfielder Yasuhito Endo.
"But don't judge us on that game."
Defender Yuto Nagatomo, who plays for Serie A side Inter Milan, said he and his teammates would have to get to grips with Mario Balotelli, who proved a handful for Mexico and who scored the winner in that game to see the Italians join Brazil on three points.
And Nagatomo said slyly that he figures there is one way to do so - niggle the temperamental striker.
Balotelli is already carrying a needless booking into the match having taken off his shirt after his goal Sunday.
And Nagatomo says that "while he is very quick and physical we must mark him tightly and above all get under his skin. He is always in the thick of things but he has a short fuse. It will be a mental battle for him."
Japan earlier arrived in Recife from Brasilia and had no injuries to report. Keisuke Honda got over a hip problem that saw him miss a Saturday training session and skipper Makoto Hasebe shook off a sore ankle.
Italy enjoyed a beach volleyball session earlier after their win over Mexico although Balotelli, criticised by coach Cesare Prandelli for his booking, did not show.
Defender Giorgio Chiellini and midfielder Riccardo Montolivo were both buoyed by the win over the Mexicans, who had widely been seen as key rivals for second spot in Group A.
"We tried a few things and were very solid and it was a good performance against Mexico,"said Montolivo, while Chiellini added that "we have to build on what we did against the Mexicans and another win now will set us up for the semi-finals."