Italy vs. Brazil: 6 Things We Learned
Brazil secured the top spot in Group A of the 2013 Confederations Cup on Saturday night with a 4-2 victory over Italy in Salvador, thanks in part to two second-half goals from striker Fred.
The selecao, though, were the better side of the night and deserved their victory over what was a semi-rotated Italian lineup—with the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi rested.
Neymar was once more handed the official Man of the Match award, having given his side the advantage in the second half with a delightful free-kick. However, on this occasion, he will feel he was better supported by his colleagues.
Let's take a look at six things we can learn from the fixture.
Brazil Can't Afford to Sit Back
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With Brazil up 3-1 against Italy in the Arena Fonte Nova, Luiz Felipe Scolari sought to close down the game and ensure smooth progression to the semifinal stage of the competition.
However, the decision to sit deep and concede possession to Italy made the selecao look vulnerable in defence as the Italians upped their intensity in the final 20 minutes.
It's understandable to seek to limit the opposition's chances of making a comeback, but Brazil do not have the defensive players to sit deep against top sides.
From the moment they changed approach, Italy looked ominously like scoring. Brazil's late fourth goal finally settled the encounter.
Oscar Is in Need of an Extended Break
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The number of games Oscar has played in the 2012-13 season has been one of the most overused statistics of the 2013 Confederations Cup thus far. However, the Chelsea man once more looked tired on Saturday evening.
Having been a bright point of the pre-tournament friendlies and opening win over Japan, Oscar has looked fatigued in the subsequent two group fixtures. His influence on both games has been fleeting at best.
When performing to his capabilities, Oscar is the central point of the Brazilian attack. At the moment, though, he appears sluggish in his thinking and movement.
Perhaps, with progression assured, this would have been a good game to rest the young playmaker. From now on in the tournament, he is unlikely to be afforded any respite.
Italy Are Reliant on Pirlo
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Italy rested their central midfield playmaker Andrea Pirlo on Saturday night, and his absence was sorely felt in what felt like a disjointed midfield display from the Azzurri.
Neither Riccardo Montolivo or Alberto Aquilani are comparable to the Juventus man, with both players having failed to live up to early expectations regarding their careers.
That is not to say that they are not good players, but that they lack the extra 10 percent that separates the likes of Pirlo from his peers.
It was a wise move from Prandelli to keep his influential midfielder safe from harm, and they will need him in top form for a likely semifinal encounter with Spain.
Neymar Continues to Silence His Doubters
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A third game, a third goal and a third Man of the Match performance for Brazilian star Neymar at the Confederations Cup. If there were doubts about his talent before, they have now largely been dispelled.
On this occasion, it was a sumptuous free-kick curled into the far corner of the goal that lit up the encounter, quickly restoring his side's advantage after Italy's second-half equaliser.
In truth, with the ball at his feet, it was not Neymar's best night in a Brazil shirt. However, he still had a major influence on the outcome, in scoring and also delivering the free-kick that helped set up Dante's opener.
He has life in Barcelona to look forward to, and appears to have shed the weight on his shoulders that the speculation and a loss of form had brought. His excellent tournament continues.
Italy's Defence Continues to Make Basic Errors
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For the third consecutive match at the Confederations Cup, Italy's much vaunted defence made basic errors in conceding four goals against Brazil on Saturday.
While it was Barzagli against Mexico, and De Sciglio against Japan, this time it was both Buffon and Chiellini who must take some criticism for their roles in Brazil's goals.
For both of Fred's goals, the goalkeeping was questionable. Buffon left a large gap at the near post for the striker's first, before palming a Marcelo shot out centrally for the second.
Chiellini, for the former Lyon striker's effort to make the score 3-1, was also disappointing in his attempts to prevent Fred taking a shot at goal.
The Juventus side of recent years has taken great pride in its defence, but the same players have not stepped up in this tournament for Italy—albeit in a different tactical shape.
Fred Continues Striking Form
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Fluminense striker Fred may not be everybody's first choice to lead the line for Brazil, but his six goals in eight international fixtures this year are hard to argue with.
He may lack mobility compared to many of his colleagues, but the target man showed once more that he can cause good defenders problems with his strength and is undoubtedly a natural finisher.
Whether Fred's inclusion is best for the team's fluidity is a debate that is still raging, but he continues to press home his personal claims to the shirt with goals.
The Fluminense man hadn't had the greatest tournament up to this point, but gave the Italian defence a torrid time in the second half of Saturday's encounter.