FIFA CONFEDERATIONS CUP

Arena Fonte Nova

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Italy

  • Emanuele Giaccherini 51'
  • Giorgio Chiellini 71'

2 - 4

FT

Brazil

  • Dante 45' +1'
  • Neymar 55'
  • Fred 66'
  • Fred 88'

Italy v Brazil: Preview

John Brewin

A reprise of the World Cup finals of 1970 and 1994 will be staged in Salvador, the party 'capital of happiness' on Brazil's north east coast. It had been anticipated as the match of the Confederations Cup's group stages but now in fact, it looks something of a dead rubber as both teams have qualified for the last four. The only prize at hand is making sure that Spain are avoided in the semi-final by the team that wins. Italy need to win to avoid their frequent nemesis.

What's at stake?

Brazil have now scored five goals, and conceded none. It seems an impressive return, yet the doubts continue. As against Japan, Brazil began well against Mexico only for their performance level to meander, before a late flourish. Still, Luiz Felipe Scolari can point to clean sheets and the clear margins of victory. Amid a backdrop of civil unrest, Brazil have actually looked like a team on an upward curve of improvement, though in such circumstances of turmoil this does seem rather trivial.

Italians do not much like 4-3 matches. Even if one of their finest moments was the 1970 World Cup semi-final win against West Germany, such a scoreline goes against the Azzurri's favoured model of strong defence and control. Japan ran them very close in the heat of Recife, and they found Shinji Kagawa unplayable. Neymar, Brazil's man of the tournament so far by an Amazonian mile, is a player whose finding of space may cause them yet greater problems. The price of defeat or even a draw is a meeting with Spain, who beat them at both Euro 2008 and Euro 2012.

Style and tactics

Scolari is implementing his plan carefully, perhaps too carefully for many of the host nation's football fans. The plan seems to be to provide the platform for Neymar to weave his magic, and hope that he does so. It has worked so far, but against a more tactically aware opponent, as the Italians purport to be, then it might not be so effective. The greatest doubt against this team is its ability to perform against top sides. Fluidity is still lacking. And it needs to return if Brazil are to become a team to win this competition, let alone the World Cup.

Cesare Prandelli's predilection for tinkering with his starting XI according to the occasion almost proved his undoing against the Japanese. At least the move of putting Sebastian Giovinco on as a substitute paid off. And there is also the heartening news from the frontline, where Mario Balotelli continues to be a threat. The deadball was especially effective against Japan, but they may struggle to repeat that against Brazil's strong defence. Expect Prandelli to opt for more solidity. His team did not look as good as at last year's Euros.

Players to watch

It is difficult to look beyond Neymar. The world outside Brazil knows far more about him now. His goal was good, but his assist for Jo was perhaps even better. The former Manchester City man's revival may seem unlikely to those who watched him in England, but it has been in evidence in both matches so far. He might be expected to start. David Luiz's broken nose looked nasty so he may be rested to give Bayern's Dante a run-out.

Andrea Pirlo struggled to be the fulcrum against the Japanese, and he was not helped by the odd absence of club colleague Claudio Marchisio from the start. If Alberto Aquilani keeps his place, which seems doubtful, he will need to play far better than he did in Recife, when he was subbed in the first half as all went awry. Gianluigi Buffon might have been sent off against the Japanese, even though he won the ball from Shinji Okazaki for the penalty. He was not particularly happy all night, and especially not when conceding three goals.

What will happen?

Brazil are likelier to be the fresher after Italy wilted in the heat against the Japanese. However, Italy will provide a very different test for a team that has not found it easy against European teams in recent history. The next Neymar show is expected, but Prandelli may have plans for him. As with their previous two matches, Brazil will hope to get off to a bright start and perhaps hang on from there.

Who'll win?

Perhaps neither of them. A repeat result of the 2-2 scoreline between the two in Geneva in March does not seem an outlandish prediction.

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