Thursday June 20 2013
Italy survive Samurai scare

Italy defeated Japan in a Confederations Cup thriller in Recife on Wednesday. Luca Cetta dissects the action from a topsy-turvy encounter.

Wow, how about that! Have you all recovered yet? What a gripping contest. Just be glad it was the Confederations Cup and not the real thing – imagine the nervous tension. In a game that had it all, Italy managed to sneak a 4-3 victory against a talented and spirited Japanese side. You almost didn’t want it to end, but in a way are so thankful it did. The neutrals loved the entertainment, but Cesare Prandelli will be extremely worried about the Azzurri’s quality.

Sebastian Giovinco may have tapped home the winner with four minutes remaining, but Italy were blunt in their assessment post-match. Emanuele Giaccherini – who hit the post and created a goal – said Italy “didn’t deserve to win.” Prandelli noted the Azzurri “struggled like crazy” and Daniele De Rossi called the result the only positive.

What is it about the second match of a tournament that Italy fears? De Rossi signalled a warning for his teammates following the win against Mexico to remember four years ago. In South Africa, a win over the United States was followed by a drab loss to Egypt. That put qualification on a knife-edge and Brazil duly dispatched of Italy, who went home early.

Think back through the years. Rather than build on their first result, Italy tends to take qualification down to the third match. Much to the detriment of its supporters. Euro 2012 is a very recent example. So too World Cup 2010. They are not isolated incidents. Go back to 1962. Look at the World Cup four years later. Head through to Spain 1982. Euro ‘96 stalled in the second match, as did the Asian adventure in 2002. The European Championships in 2004 and 2008 went down to the wire following winnable games which turned into draws with Sweden and Romania. Sandwiched in-between was a crazy match in 2006 against the USA. Sometimes Italy recover. Other times they go home early. This match was a little different as it – somehow – ended with three points. But only just. Certainly performance-wise it continued the tradition of the second-game blues.

What can Prandelli take from this match? “I liked to see this Italy suffer and fight for the result at all costs. We could’ve settled, but instead we kept fighting,” he noted. That’s true. Italy did overturn a two-goal deficit and then win it as Japan turned the screw. Gianluigi Buffon – harsh concession of a penalty aside – kept his team in the contest with a series of saves. Daniele De Rossi led the comeback with a bullet header and was the only midfielder to get a foothold on proceedings. His fabulous pass for Claudio Marchisio also provided the winner. Mario Balotelli – who kept his perfect penalty-taking record intact following another dubious decision – also looked lively.

Meanwhile, Prandelli was bold to replace Alberto Aquilani just 30 minutes in for Giovinco, who played well. Italy were 2-0 down at that stage but it paid dividends. His introduction – coupled with Japan tiring from their lightning early pace – saw Italy very nearly draw level by the interval. As it turned out, Italy netted three times either side of half-time in an 11 minute spell to lead.

The tactician will have much to ponder about the rest. Alberto Zaccheroni’s Blue Samurai – well, given his presence perhaps ‘Azzurri Samurai’ is more appropriate – gave Italy an immense fright. Their pressing restricted the four-time world champions to long balls during the opening half-hour. And when chasing a late winner, Japan’s possession forced Italy to defend very deep, sometimes with all 11 behind the ball. They created ample chances and incredibly failed to score when Shinji Okazaki hit the post and Shinji Kagawa headed the follow-up on to the crossbar. Okazaki again hit the woodwork with two minutes remaining. This time the follow-up was put away, only for Maya Yoshida to be denied by the linesman’s flag. They deserved something from the game.

Andrea Pirlo took plaudits at the Maracanà Stadium on Sunday but was poor in Recife. Yet he was not alone. Fellow midfielders Aquilani and Riccardo Montolivo were anonymous. The full-backs struggled to stamp their authority on either side, giving the likes of Inter’s Yuto Nagatomo free reign. The defending centrally was at times shaky, noticeably for Kagawa’s goal.

Italy have complained of fatigue since the San Marino friendly in late May and it showed in the humidity. It’s a point Prandelli stressed post-game. He said the team had run out of gas once they went ahead. But is fatigue a valid excuse? Well, no. The Azzurri are not the only group of players at the Confederations Cup to have just finished a gruelling season. All teams are in the same boat. It seems to be an excuse used to mask a poor performance of late, including this and the Czech Republic qualifier. Conditions were humid for Japan too.

Zaccheroni’s team exit the tournament “with huge regrets.” Two losses mean they and El Tri are out. It also means Italy do not have to contend with a nailbiting final group match. Their match with hosts Brazil on Saturday is a shootout for first and to avoid Spain in the last four. De Rossi is suspended following a second yellow card, so Prandelli must make a midfield change. It’s a blow given how the Roma man played. Aside from that, the tactician needs to find a formula for a better showing to come close to Brazil, who have so far looked a step above the Azzurri. This was a win that left more questions than answers.

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Have your say...
@Tino Baggio.

it is not in this case, disrepectful to use the term Samurai. However, if you want to stick to football, i suggest you avoid making comments about political leanings.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 9:17pm
For 10 Minutes either side of the break Italy were good but were pegged back but a very determined & hi tempo Japan side. But having watched them against Brazil I was not surprised. The Azzurri were poor in defence but it was an excellent match to watch. I would like to focus on the other good points from the match. Errr Italy are through to semis. Seriously MB looked good again DDR, SG was a great sub and it CP does decide to call it a day Zac would be a good replacement.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 8:17pm
Whatever happens on Saturday (I placed my bet) the Azzurri is going to face Spain in the semi-finals. If Prandelli sticks to his Christmas tree formation, expect another Euro 2012 mauling.

The 3-5-2 formation is defensive but that's exactly whats needed against the ever passing & pressing Spanish side since the Italians can't compete with them head to head let alone toe to toe.

I always say....

Catenaccio > Tiki Taka
on the 20th June, 2013 at 8:09pm
@Giuseppe Vittiglio

It's not really racist when thats what they call themselves, their nickname is the Blue Samurai!
on the 20th June, 2013 at 7:22pm
You have to give the team credit for getting back into the game and CP for making those changes. I know there were mistakes were made but when was the last we saw italy play like that and score 4 goals? at least it was an exciting game unlike watching spain with all that tike tak rubbish. Every one should stop moaning and get behind out country come we're Italians when have we ever done any thing easy?
on the 20th June, 2013 at 7:17pm
Nothing wrong with mentioning the word 'samurai' in conjunction with Japan especially when the Japanese are PROUD of their Samurai history and the samurai originated from there.

Doesnt take long for someone to draw the 'politically correct card' bashed onto us by the lefties

stick to Football on this page pls
on the 20th June, 2013 at 7:03pm
Samurai Scare?

That is incredibly racist

I am sure somewhere in Japan they have an article called "The Pasta Eaters Slurp Ahead"

on the 20th June, 2013 at 6:21pm
Even thought DeRossi scored a crucial goal yesterday he is to much of a defensive liability. He showed the same type of defensive errors similar to the ones in the last world cup when he gifted a ball to the Slovakian striker. Italy will be much sharper without him and defensively and Montolivo will be given much more opportunities to compliment Pirlo in the midfield.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 5:16pm
do you realize that Inter had more players on the Japan national team than the italian team? it helps when a team that won CL 3 years ago has something to contribute to the italian national team. Can All of Italy rely on Juventus and AC Milan to mould and nurture italian superstars? Someone needs to start pointing the finger at moratti, De La Valle, Lotito etc....they are the frontrunners of why Italy lacks creativity.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 4:40pm
CP needs to stop advertising his formation. What i seen from Japan was Zemanlandia 2.0 - 2 full/wing backs down the field with 3 forwards pressing into the box in a lined formation - who has the courage to do that on a International level? well, Zacc does because he already knew italy's formation and exploited the starting players in the lineup. Maggio has no defensive play - Aquilani knows how to play 1 position so if you move him out of it he's good for Nothing. CP grow some balls-ATTACK!
on the 20th June, 2013 at 4:31pm
@ Daniel Giambrone i agree with ball retention italy ball possession is truly awful and look to go long to much im not against a long ball if the pass is on and the striker is on the move but i would prefer to hold onto the ball more and pass teams to death this is a huge problem for italy because its not their nature they almost prefer to play with out the ball and counter
but other teams posesion play is so powerful now this counter attacking game is no longer a option.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 4:22pm
Prandelli needs to learn the art of squad rotation, his subs have improved (after Euro 12 final nightmare) but he must rest key players & get starting line ups right based on fitness & sharpness. The conditions were tough so its logical that going into the game last night, an already tired Pirlo & Blazaghi would be ineffective. 1st choice players must be rested & the risk must be taken in playing other squad players. Its a confederation cup after all, we should use it to test those less regular players, not let the, sit out and then play a bit part sub role! Aquilani in the middle from the start might have been a whole lot better than Pirlo starting there??? We cannot rely on Pirlo, De Rossi, Marchisio for consec 6 games in a row as Euro 12 showed us in the final. Its in the midfield that this Italy loose games. Yes the defence is weaker that past generations but if the midfield 3 are all on it & fit, generally we will play good possession football & protect our defence comfortably.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 4:18pm
@ Taedelli Roar '82 completely disagree with pirlo unplayable all youi have to do is sit on him which japan did and your playing with 10 men and every knows this now he has no pace none seen milk turn quicker and gets pushed off of the ball way to easily falls over and asks for a free kick not good enough you cant play football in 2013 with one playmaker doesnt work its to easy to stop you shouldnt have to have a plan b spain dont but they are not built around one player big difference
on the 20th June, 2013 at 4:12pm
balotelli can play the single striker role well and i think he likes doing it italy really play at one pace and its a sluggish pace and if you ever watch italy play there is never enough of them in the middle of the park always seem out numbered and if you look at japan and the way they played the game their passing was short and zipped around italy have to adopt this type of football and i say it again pirlo nevers plays with pace and it kills italy the ball needs to moved with pace and short
on the 20th June, 2013 at 4:08pm
What a fantastic game! For all of he would be CT on here recommending this formation or that you must remember that this is part of being an Italian or Azzurri supporter, we never do things easily. Ever. We are one of the masters of the dark art of grinding out a result, yes it would be nice to see us play with more verve and skill but watch the 1970 Italy-Germany game, scrappy unspectacular goals and chaotic defending at times. Sound familiar? Commiserations to Japan, they played wonderfully.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 4:05pm
I have very little faith in this team - and CP's methods in particular. Defensively, Italy looked frail and sluggish. CP can say what he likes but this team will not go very far next year - let alone win the WC. At times, they were so slow coming out of their owen half, I wondered if they were actually awake. There is too much reliance on AP as the creative force, but once he is marked out of the game - Italy look like a very ordinary side. MB is just a firework ready to go off at any time
on the 20th June, 2013 at 3:56pm
People have to stop discussing the Azzurri fitness levels. They are all professionals and they are all in good shape. The problem with Italy is that the majority of the players are just slow.
At times yesterday I thought the Azzurri were paying Spain, not Japan. They play fast and they have great skill with the ball. Italy has to start producing players like that, otherwise Italian football is going to be left behind.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 3:41pm
If this Japan turned up against Brazil in their opening game then the result would have been different.I think apart from Spain every team in the confederations would have found Japan a real handful and theres no denying they are a world class team.Anyway that doesnt take away the fact that sometimes Italy need to adapt to a different style of play and not always rely on Pirlo to deliver the killer pass everytime. Italy need an alternative engine room so to speak.A bit of variety and strength.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 3:10pm
Worst performance I have seen Italy play since the thrashing at the hands of Spain in Euro 2012. Aquilani needs to go, DeSciglio should be replaced by Criscito who should be back on this team, Maggio needs to be replaced by Abate, and Cassano needs to be back on this team. Not to mention they need to go back to the 3-5-2 formation. I wish Prandelli would learn from these experiences! Instead he repeats the same mistakes!
on the 20th June, 2013 at 3:02pm
The Brazil match is a golden opportunity to put the experimental 3-5-2 to test against top opposition. It's true it can be ultra-defensive at times (5-3-2) but surely it cannot be any worse than the currently shambolic 4-3-2-1. LWB: de sciglio, RWB:Maggio midfield:Marchisio + Montolivo(middle) + Candreva/Diamanti. Partner Balo with either Giovinco or SES. Pirlo must be rested. If 4-3-2-1 is used against pacy and technical players like Neymar,I'm afraid the scoreline will turn really,really ugly.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 2:57pm
Bonnucci needs to be in the central defense. Giovinco makes a big difference when he's allowed to play out wide. Aquilani should never wear the National Team shirt again. Montolivo is a non factor and Marchisio isn't much better. Candreva might be an option. Time to bring up several of the U-21s. If Prandelli doesn't wake up we'll have a repeat of South Aftica.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 2:53pm
problem of lately is prandelli tactics. his tactics aren't working & incorrect. he plays balotelli as a long striker, when balotelli isn't a punta. balotelli must play on left so he can attack, dribble & penetrate in from the supporting left side. and why giaccherini as supporting foward/trequartista role?! that's ridiculous. he tried montelivo before and it failed. prandelli has quality at his disposal and he is mismanaging the players characteristic when he strategically puts them out there!
on the 20th June, 2013 at 2:47pm
Zaccherone coach Italy as it seems Italy are trailing in International football. CP was supposed to take Italy forward. A new attacking and faster team and not that excuse we saw last night. you can blab and rant on about formations as much as you night but that wont make a difference and the worlds eyes are on Italy. Last night was the proof with JEERS for Italy and OLE for Japan whenever they touched the ball and rightly so. roll on the Brazilian demolition of Italy soon
on the 20th June, 2013 at 2:28pm
CP needs to get this mess sorted quick. Instead of shoehorning his favorite 4-3-1-2 formation upon the team (even though Italy is severely lacking in the trequartista department), he should tailor the formation to best suit the players,not the other way around. Young starlets (Gabbidini, Marone, Insigne etc) should also be given regular playing time in Serie A to gain experience and develop themselves. Fatigue is a PATHETIC excuse because it can be mitigated with proper ROTATION and planning.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 2:22pm
since when was the confed cup 'not the real thing' Is this the Italian excuse? then Why was lippi bouncing about the touch against Egypt shouting 'only 1 goal'. Why is CPs hair line falling further back.Grow up! we all want Italy to win regardless of what its for.
watchings last nights performance made me sick & i bet CP isnt addresing issues like Pirlo sleeping on the ball. De sciglio cant cross nor pass to Buffon (where are you victor) italy were out classed in Everyway yet maybe we should hav
on the 20th June, 2013 at 2:21pm
I think we should give credit to Alberto Zaccheroni and his master plan, who better to outwit an Italian manager then other Italian manager and thumbs up to Japan for being fearless and skilful, they took Italy by surprise and we nearly paid the price. Pirlo and Buffon looked nervous just like they did for Juventus in the first leg against Bayern Munich.
It was a bad day in the office for Italy, we sometimes crumble at our second group stage game, and Asia teams (North and South Korea plus a dodgy ref from Educator) can be our Achilles heel. I thought the Japan game would be the hardest one in the group stage, due to above , Italian manager, team from Asia and 2nd game in the group stage.
I think we can beat Brazil on Saturday,
We know Italy of old, we grow in a tournament, and Claudio Prandelli bring more young players, but I believe it must discussed that the future stars would go to the under 21’s
The biggest lesson for Italian football is for the top Serie A teams to field more home-grown young talent
on the 20th June, 2013 at 2:17pm
Wheather Italy plays 352 or 442 or 4321, if teams are pressing & man marking Pirlo then Italy are always outplayed. Pirlo has done a lot of things to the Azzurri. At 34 he can not shine every week in & week out. CP needs plan B. May be Monti in the deeper role. For the WC next year the team needs fresh faces like Insigne, Verratti, Florenzi, Criscito, Santon, Ogbonna & Guiseppe Rossi. Please get rid of Gilardino, Aquilani, Maggio. The overall fitness level of the Azzurri is very worrying.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 2:09pm
At the end of the day it comes down to one question, does Italy have enough world class players to win a world cup...the answer at the moment is NO. What Italy is lacking at the moment is one or two players that can take the pressure off of Pirlo. In 2006 we had Totti and Del Piero that teams had to worry about and that gave Pirlo extra time on the ball to make plays. The only way Italy competes for the world cup next year is if Prandelli begs Totti to come back, he is the key to Italy's success
on the 20th June, 2013 at 2:04pm
Italy wasn't very good today, but I don't agree with all the calls for a 3-5-2. The 4-3-2-1 actually looks pretty good, but it needs to be used to full effect (NO midfielders in attack!). And I think Marchisio should start because of the work he does in defense. Italy looked slow in midfield yesterday, and I think that's because they played three deep-lying midfielders at the same time (Pirlo, De Rossi, and Montolivo). Against a slower team that might work, but Brazil will rip them apart.
on the 20th June, 2013 at 1:43pm









on the 20th June, 2013 at 1:09pm

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