Somehow it feels as if the entire group stage of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup is coming down to the moment that Brazil and Italy take the pitch Saturday.
Two of the most successful nations in World Cup history will take center stage, with both squads still looking like sure bets to advance to the semifinals. This might not be the last time they play in this tournament after all.
But in a stacked Group A with Mexico still looming, there's no guarantee of either team advancing and that's what will make this tilt so special. It's not everything, but it matters.
Let's take a look at some predictions for the upcoming affair.
Neymar Will Continue His Early Domination
It took nearly no time for 21-year-old sensation Neymar to make his mark on Brazil's Confederations Cup opener against Japan, as he ripped in a beautiful, 25-foot volley in just the third minute of their 3-0 win.
I don't expect anything different this time around. Sure, the Italians boast a much more talented defense than Japan that will make things tougher for the Brazilians, but Neymar is on a mission to take over the world of international football and doesn't seem able to be stopped at this level.
The 21-year-old who just recently signed for Barcelona, and their huge following is sure to be closely watching his performances in Brazil.
Neymar makes one or two plays in each match that just make your jaw drop, and he's sure to continue that against Italy.
Mario Balotelli Will Score Again
If there's anything we've seen from Mario Balotelli in the last two summers, it's that he turns it on to another level when he suits up for Italy's national team.
He proved that last year in the Euro 2012, when his Italian side advanced all the way to the final, where they were ousted by Spain. Balotelli was the MVP of that squad, scoring goals with reckless abandon and taking over matches in clutch moments.
Once again, Balotelli showed us that he's still capable with a late match-winner over Mexico in the Confederations Cup opener.
Balotelli's strength and size in the box cannot be matched, even by Brazil's skilled defenders. They simply won't be sizable enough to contend with his prowess and he'll make them pay by notching a goal.
Brazil Will Continue Roll With Big Victory
Brazil's recent success goes much, much deeper than Neymar, and that's why they'll be able to get past Italy on Saturday.
It won't be a one-sided affair by any means, and there's no reason to believe that possession will be lopsided in any way. But Italy just didn't show enough offensively against Mexico.
Balotelli's goal was certainly worth admiration, and Andrea Pirlo's free kick was incredible. But when you can't count on other players to make big plays, things get awfully tough when you face a team that offers as much offensively as Brazil.
I still think that Italy will rebound from this loss and make a deep run to perhaps face Brazil again in the championship, but the Brazilians are far too hot right now to be contained. There's no way I can see Italy shutting down Neymar, Hulk and company.
Prediction: Brazil 3, Italy 1
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