JOHANNESBURG // If there is to be a shock in Group B of the Confederations Cup, it has to come today. The results of the first round of matches may have gone as expected, but that tells nothing like the full story. Brazil needed a last-minute penalty to beat Egypt while Italy trailed the USA until midway through the second half. Nonetheless, if Sunday's final set of group fixtures are not to be dead rubbers - if Italy against Brazil can ever be a dead rubber - either the USA or Egypt will have to turn plucky performances into something more tangible today.
"We showed our warrior spirit in the first game," said Egypt's captain, Ahmed Hassan, the Al-Ahly midfielder. "But I think this game against Italy will be tougher." Italy's midfield will certainly be more wary of Mohamed Aboutrika than Brazil's seemed to be. The Al-Ahly playmaker was sensational in that opener, setting up two of the goals with finely-weighted passes, finally drawing the sort of appreciation from the world's media that he has enjoyed in Africa for the past four or five years.
The two-goal hero of Italy's win, meanwhile, may not even start against Egypt. Marcello Lippi, Italy's coach, praised the "imagination, passion and skill" shown by Giuseppe Rossi after he come on as a 57th-minute substitute, but indicated yesterday that he would once again start from the bench. "I won't just throw him into a game because he's proved he can do well when given a chance," he said. Brazil, meanwhile, will have to but behind them the "fatigue" that their coach Dunga blamed for their defensive sloppiness against Egypt, particularly given the USA's muscular approach.
"USA played very well," said Italy's robust midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, who is well-placed to judge a side's physicality. "They played as a team, came in together, came in hard." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Brazil v USA, KO 6pm, ART Sport 5 Egypt v Italy, KO 10.30pm, ART Sport 5