Mexico vs. Italy: Confederations Cup Preview

Colin O'BrienContributor IJune 12, 2013

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10:  Head coach Italy Cesare Prandelli attends a press conference at an Italy training session at Estadio Joao Havelange on June 10, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Coming into a tournament on the back of two disappointing draws is not ideal form for Italy, but the Azzurri are still favourites to win their first Confederations Cup game against Mexico.

Last week's dull stalemate with the Czech Republic promised more entertainment than it delivered, but the Czechs are always a difficult side to beat and the result still left Italy comfortably on top of their World Cup qualifying Group B. 

The capitulation against Haiti was certainly regrettable, but Cesare Prandelli shouldn't lose too much sleep over it. The game represented an opportunity to try new things—like a 4-3-3 formation—and give some fringe players a run. The mistakes made are unlikely to be repeated, and as they settle down in Rio, the squad will have already moved on. 

For the moment, the media furore is an annoyance but little more, and anyone crying crisis needs to put the game in perspective. Not least because as world football's Spanish love affair drags on indeterminately, the criticism and disbelief conjured up by the draw with the Caribbean minnows is in stark contrast to the reaction La Roja's close-run 2-1 win received. 

Speaking after that friendly, Spain manager Vincent Del Bosque. said (here in English, via 

In the first half, I think we played to our level, we controlled the ball and created chances. After the break we put less pressure on, played with less intensity and Haiti were able to see more of the ball and play better, but overall it was a good test.

Repeat the sentiment for Italy. Like Spain, the Azzurri will have seen the Haiti clash as a chance to stretch their legs and try some different options ahead of the real action with Mexico, Japan and Brazil. They'll be irked by the draw—but the negativity it's summoned is only likely to spur them on.

Emanuele Giaccherini, who scored the first against Haiti in just 19 seconds, a new Italy record, certainly thinks it will. In an interview he gave to Italian TV station Rai Sport (here in English, via Football Italia), he said: 

I hope today’s draw can spark something within us to make us give more in the Confederations Cup.

I don’t know who might’ve thought it would end 7-0, as all games are difficult. Italy didn’t play a disastrous game. We took the lead, created more chances and were 2-0 up.

A little fatigue set in during the final stages and our concentration levels dipped, so we conceded two goals.

The first half we felt extremely hot, so after 20 minutes we were struggling. When the sun started to go down, we felt much better.

In my view we will take the next three or four days to prepare and face Mexico as best we can. 

The Juventus man hit on what is a crucial factor at this year's Confederations Cup: the weather. As Italy endures one of the worst springs and early summers in memory, Brazil is having no such problems.

Against Haiti, a second-string Italy were sluggish, second to almost every ball and unable to make the most of their pace when Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli joined the fray. 

The intense heat takes time to acclimatise to, and it should be a fitter and more comfortable Azzurri that lines up against Mexico. 

It certainly needs to be. Cesare Prandelli's work with the national team has been exemplary, creating a young, exciting and competitive unit out of the rubble of Marcelo Lippi's disastrous World Cup 2010 side.

At Euro 2012, they surprised everyone by reaching the final and playing good football in the process. They can't afford to go backwards, or rest on their laurels, like they're sometimes guilty of in smaller games.  

Gigi Buffon called the draw with Haiti "the son of arrogance." The manager called it an "embarrassment."

Having scored twice against an unheralded side, the Italians sat back, expecting the win. They won't be so complacent against an excellent Mexico side that includes such talent as Manchester United's Javier Hernandez and Valencia's Andres Guardado. 

A lot will change in the Italy camp ahead of Mexico. For one, Davide Astori is unlikely to start, so he won't be giving away any needless penalties. For another, Salvatore Sirigu won't be troubled by long balls like the one that lead to Jean Philippe Peguero's late equalizer for Haiti—because he'll be on the bench. 

The central Americans haven't arrived in Rio in the best of form, either. Prior to their midweek game with Costa Rica, their last three competitive games have produced just one goal—when they beat Jamaica in a World Cup Qualifier—and in between there were two disappointing friendlies against Peru, which ended 0-0, and Nigeria, which finished 2-2. 

Italy can take advantage of that and secure an early win in a difficult group that pits them against the hosts next week in Salvador.