Italy vs. Uruguay: Previewing Confederations Cup 3rd-Place Match

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Italy vs. Uruguay: Previewing Confederations Cup 3rd-Place Match
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Before Spain and Brazil square off for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup title, Italy and Uruguay will put it all on the line one more time in Brazil for a shot at the third-place trophy. 

The Azzurri and La Celeste suffered heartbreak losses in the round of four, with Italy losing in penalty kick fashion to Spain and Uruguay falling 2-1 at full time to the host nation. 

But the tournament isn't over for the two sides that failed to make the championship match. Winning the play-in game could provide some momentum as these national teams keep their eyes on the 2014 World Cup next summer. 

As these two tweets from Football Italia suggest, neither manager is taking this match for granted, and each side has had significant success in this tournament so far:

Despite missing out on the championship title, both sides have plenty at stake in this match. Here's a look at a match preview as we wind down the 2013 Confederations Cup. 

 

Confederations Cup Third-Place Match

Who: Uruguay vs. Italy

When: Sunday, June 30, at noon ET

Where: Arena Fonte Nova; Salvador, Brazil

Referee: Djamel Haimoudi

Top Scorers at CC: Abel Hernandez, Uruguay (four); Mario Balotelli, Italy (two)

Head-to-Head: Spain leads 3-2-3 (eight matches in last 85 years)

 

Match Preview

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
This is Italy's first trip to the final four of the Confederations Cup, while Uruguay have only been once before in 1997. Guaranteed of at least a top-four finish, each side will be looking for something greater as the World Cup looms heavy on international minds. 

Six different players have scored for Italy at this tournament, but the side's two best scorers will likely sit this one out. After a strained thigh sidelined Mario Balotelli in advance of the semifinals, Goal.com had this tweet with news on Andrea Pirlo and Andrea Barzagli's injury concerns:

With both players nursing minor health concerns with league play right around the corner, their absence will push manager Cesare Prandelli's men against a Uruguayan squad that is familiar with Italian football. 

As noted by BBC Sports in this match preview, eight of Uruguay's men play their club football in Italy. That acquaintance won't be a telling sign, but it will help Uruguay prepare for some of the athletes who play their football in the Italian leagues as well. 

Injuries are going to be a big story. 

According to FIFA.com, Italy will also be without Claudio Marchisio on Sunday, who is nursing a bruised leg. The attacking midfielder's absence leaves another gaping hole in the Italian attack. 

Azzurri on Twitter added another injury casualty and then surmised a likely lineup for the match:

The most recent meeting between Italy and Uruguay came in 2011, when La Celeste took down the Azzurri by a 1-0 score. The majority of the core for both sides was in place at the time of the match, including the coaching staffs, Pirlo, Balotelli, Edinson Cavani and Gianluigi Buffon, but star striker Luis Suarez was not on the pitch for his home nation in Uruguay's loss.

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Italy vs. Uruguay in 2011
Suarez has three goals in four matches at the Confederations Cup so far, and although he won't be going toe to toe with Balotelli in a battle of impressive strikers, Suarez knows that Italy will be a tough team to beat on Sunday.

Suarez goal in group stage vs. Spain via Fanatix.com
Speaking to Globoesporte (via Goal.com), Suarez noted that Italy took Spain to penalty kicks without the star Italian, and that Italy's toughness showed in keeping things level through 120 minutes in the semifinal against La Roja

Uruguay will have a small advantage in terms of time, as they've had a full extra day of rest after dancing with Brazil prior to Italy's tango with Spain in the semifinals.

Clive Mason/Getty Images
But Italy are resilient, and Uruguay haven't exactly coasted through any of their matches other than a big win over the overmatched Tahiti side in the group stage. Anything can happen here, which means Uruguay will need to take advantage of early opportunities amongst their front line.

One such man on the front line is Cavani, who has struggled to score goals for his side in international play. Per the BBC report above, he has just six in the last 28 outings.

Could that lack of production have anything to do with impending transfer rumors? Football Italia broached that topic:

Cavani, Suarez and Diego Forlan are a formidable trio up front for Uruguay, but they'll have to contend with an Azzurri side that limited the best team in the world to zero goals in 120 minutes of action the last time out. Cavani could be key in bucking the scoreless streak against Italy.

On the other side, look for Stephan El Shaarawy to get every chance to prove he can be a contributor to Italy next summer as he takes over for Balotelli in the middle of the Azzurri attack. But nothing is certain for the Milan striker, as noted by Azzurri here:

The injuries might force Prandelli to use the full extent of his bench, and we could see that inexperience come out in the early stages against Uruguay, especially if something more than injuries is keeping players like El Shaarawy out of action.

Who wins?

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Both sides must feel that this match is bittersweet, but the 11 men on the pitch will fight to bring back some sort of trophy from this experience. That said, I think La Celeste have the edge both in the mental side of the game and with the injuries. Uruguay win this one going away.

Prediction: Uruguay 3, Italy 1 

 

Follow Bleacher Report FC Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter. 

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