Confederations Cup Italy v Japan preview
Last Updated: 18/06/13 11:11am
Mario Balotelli: Celebrates his goal against Mexico
Italy go into their second game of Group A against Japan on Wednesday knowing that a win will all but see them qualify for the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup.
Mario Balotelli's drive and and a stunning free-kick from Andrea Pirlo - who was making his 100th appearance for the Azzurri - was enough to see off Mexico in their opening game.
Japan - who recently qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a 1-1 draw against Australia - slumped to a 3-0 defeat against host nation and three-time winners Brazil.
However, Italy boss Cesare Prandelli is even more cautious of the threat posed by Japan as they are coached by his compatriot Alberto Zaccheroni.
"Japan will have the slight edge, I think, because they have an extra day of rest," he said.
"Plus, Alberto knows us very well, he knows how we work. I expect him to prepare a trap for us.
"I trust that he will come up with an interesting strategy against us."
Meanwhile Zaccheroni knows that Japan - who finished as runners-up in 2001 - must avoid defeat to have any chance of progressing.
"We weren't able to demonstrate our abilities against Brazil. We only showed about 50 per cent of what we can do," he said.
"We take the field (against Italy) knowing that this is like a final for us. We will be giving it our all, because we know that if we lose it's all over."
Japan captain Makoto Hasebe is wary of the threat posed by in-form midfielder Pirlo.
"He's the head of the team. A fantastic footballer. We're going to have to put him off his stride early in the match," said the Wolfsburg midfielder.
"Italy have always had a great team. They're defensively sound and supremely well organised.
"We were too defensive against Brazil. It's a shame we lost, but they're a strong team and they had the crowd behind them. All of that definitely affected us."