Alberto Zaccheroni looks forward to tonight’s Italy-Japan in the Confederations Cup. “The Azzurri have few weaknesses.”
The Group A game kicks off at 23.00 UK time (22.00 GMT) in Recife. The other encounter today is Brazil-Mexico.
“This cannot be like the other matches for me, so there’s no point denying it, but I will see only opponents tonight and not enemies,” said the Japan manager.
“In all of my career, I never thought I’d be facing Italy as an opponent. I will not sing our anthem, but purely out of respect for the country that welcomed me so warmly.
“Japan has everything it takes to play football. They are an exceptional group of people and put me in the best possible condition to do my work. There is education, respect, collaboration and dedication.
“It’s true Japan won the Asian Cup when I arrived, but it was also because they were ready to win. I think what I taught the players was to have more courage. We have done all of this year, though it was missing against Brazil.”
Japan lost the opening Confederations Cup match 3-0 to the hosts and barely managed to trouble Julio Cesar in goal.
“Against Italy we must not think just about Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli, but of a whole team that has many qualities in every area and are trained by a great Coach who brought back enthusiasm and good football.
“We analysed the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents, but the problem is that the Azzurri have few weaknesses,” continued Zac.
“We will try to take away the spaces and close the lines. The important thing will be showing we’ve got character.”
Inter full-back Yuto Nagatomo is expected to start with Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda of CSKA Moscow. The lone centre-forward is 31-year-old Ryoichi Maeda, who plays for Jubilo Iwata.
Japan probable: Kawashima; Uchida, Yoshida, Konno, Nagatomo; Hasebe, Endo; Okazaki, Honda, Kagawa; Maeda
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.