Brazil vs. Italy: Complete Confederations Cup Preview, Team News, Prediction
Saturday June 22, 2013, Kick off: 3 p.m. ET
Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova - Salvador, Bahia
The two favourites to qualify for the knockout stages from Group A have done just that, both winning their opening two fixtures to secure their respective places in the semi-finals.
However, while this match is pretty much a dead rubber for all intents and purposes, neither side will want to lose and finish second in the group, as doing so would most likely ensure a semi-final meeting with World and European champions Spain.
The Selecao are yet to concede a goal in their two matches thus far, scoring five times in the process, and they therefore arrive in the match on top of the group. Luiz Felipe Scolari's side merely must avoid defeat to win the group.
Cesare Prandelli's Azzurri will face the hosts on the back of an astonishing game with Japan, which saw them recover from 2-0 down to eventually win 4-3 thanks to a late Sebastian Giovinco goal, thus securing their qualification.
The Italians won't relish meeting La Furia Roja in the semi-final, and to avoid that confrontation they'll need to become the first side to beat Brazil on home soil since Paraguay emerged victorious in Fortaleza back in 2002.
Scolari's side have won their opening two Confederations Cup matches with a certain degree of comfort—beating Japan 3-0 in their opening game and Mexico 2-0 in their second.
Since Scolari returned to the national job to replace Mano Menezes, he has overseen just one defeat in nine matches and four wins in his last six, including a 3-0 victory over France on June 9.
Having looked comfortable in their 2-1 win over Mexico in their first match in Brazil, Prandelli's side were anything but against Japan on Wednesday evening, coming under an avalanche of pressure but somehow emerging victorious.
Italy remain unbeaten in their eight matches in 2013—four wins, four draws—without ever really playing their best. Indeed they have only kept three clean sheets in that time (against Malta, San Marino and Czech Republic) and drew 2-2 with Haiti in their final match before arriving in Brazil.
March 21 2013, Italy 2-2 Brazil: First-half goals from Oscar and Fred gave Brazil a half-time lead in Switzerland, but two goals in the early part of the second half from Daniele De Rossi and Mario Balotelli—a tremendous dipping strike from 25 yards—gave the Azzurri a deserved draw.
David Luiz broke his nose in the 2-0 win over Mexico, and while he will play on in the rest of the tournament—most likely with a protective mask in place—Scolari may well select Bayern Munich's European Cup-winning defender Dante for the final group game.
Atletico Mineiro striker Jo, a late call-up for the competition due to Leandro Damiao's injury, has scored after coming on as a substitute in both of their previous matches and may get the nod ahead of Fred.
With qualification assured, but the looming spectre of Spain on the horizon if they don't secure top spot in the group, expect some changes—Filipe Luis could start in place of Marcelo, while Hernanes may slot into midfield in place of Paulinho, who hurt his hamstring against Mexico—but nothing wholesale.
Possible Starting XI: (4-2-3-1) Julio Cesar; Alves, Thiago Silva, Dante, Filipe; Gustavo, Hernanes; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Jo.
With Claudio Marchisio's continuing struggles at the international level, Prandelli selected Alberto Aquilani for the match with Japan, but that experiment was deemed a failure after just 30 minutes, when Aquilani was replaced by Sebastian Giovinco.
Daniele De Rossi picked up a second yellow card against Japan, and will therefore miss the match through suspension, whilst Andrea Pirlo will also miss out through injury. Potentially Aquilani and Marchisio may both be offered a quick reprieve. Lazio's Antonio Candreva represents another alternative in the midfield area.
Prandelli has appeared settled on a 4-3-2-1 formation with Mario Balotelli as the spearhead, supported by Emanuele Giaccherini and another. in recent times. However, given the absences in midfield, he may revert to a back three, bringing in Leonardo Bonucci to complete the Juventus defensive connection.
Christian Maggio started at right-back against Japan, but having struggled against Shinji Kagawa will likely be replaced by Ignazio Abate, who began the tournament against Mexico.
Possible Starting XI: (3-5-1-1) Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Abate, Marchisio, Montolivo, Aquilani, De Sciglio; Giaccherini; Balotelli.
Players to Watch
Brazil's No.10 has been in incredible form at the tournament so far, scoring two storming goals and offering a virtuoso performance for the Selecao which proved the difference against Mexico.
Operating mainly from the left-wing in the tournament thus far, his pace, trickery and intelligent movement have been a nightmare for opposing defenders so far, and his assist for Jo's goal against Mexico was simply astonishing.
Questions have been raised as to whether he has what it takes to lead "his" Brazil into the World Cup next summer. So far, the answers have only been positive.
The 22-year-old AC Milan star has two goals in his two Confederations Cup games so far, and has arguably been Italy's most important—and perhaps best—player.
He gave the Mexico defence the runaround in the opening game, intelligently dropping into space while also making clever runs in behind. It was a perfect example of how to play as a lone striker. His goal, when he overpowered Mexican skipper Maza Rodriguez, was just reward for his wonderful all-round performance.
Against Japan he was isolated for the most part, but always offered an outlet and during his sides first-half slumber, he was the only man to show any real attacking threat or intent.
With his power, pace and technical prowess all seemingly being harnessed in the most positive of manners at present, the mercurial striker will offer a far greater threat to the Brazil defence than they have faced in their opening two matches.
Neither side was entirely convincing in their last outing, but both eventually got the job done.
Having started like a house on fire in the opening 20 minutes against Mexico—during which time they took a 1-0 lead—Brazil eased off for the vast majority of the rest of the match, and if they'd been playing a side with greater attacking threat than El Tri, they may not have won. In the end, two sublime moments from Neymar proved the difference.
Italy looked increasingly lethargic against Japan, apart from a 10 minute spell either side of half-time when they scored three times. For large periods they were second best against the Asian champions, but Giovinco's late goal gave them a scarcely deserved win.
Neither side will want to meet Spain in the semi-final, and on that count the advantage is with Brazil, who need only a draw to top the group. Prandelli's men need to win, and obviously must attack to do so, which could well make another goal-laden game inevitable, but the absence of their key creator Pirlo is undoubtedly a loss.
Given home advantage however, and Italy's rather flimsy defence—which will forgo the protection offered to it by the suspended De Rossi—the Selecao should do enough to complete the group with three wins from three games.
Brazil 3-2 Italy
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