x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Brazil's Neymar wants to make it count against Italy

Loser of the game likely to meet Spain and the Azzurri have fitness concerns.

Neymar is expected to lead the way for Brazil, who may field an unchanged side for Italy. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images
Neymar is expected to lead the way for Brazil, who may field an unchanged side for Italy. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

Italy hope to do well against Brazil but have fitness concerns

Italy and Brazil will be battling to avoid the daunting likelihood of a semi-final against world champions Spain when they meet in Salvador today to contest top spot in Confederations Cup Group A.

Both sides secured places in the last four with a game to spare, Brazil after a Neymar-inspired 2-0 defeat of Mexico, Italy following a nail-biting 4-3 success against Japan.

With Spain three points clear in Group B, Brazil's superior goal difference means that Italy will probably have to win at the Arena Fonte Nova if they are to avoid Vicente del Bosque's side in the semi-finals.

Although the Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said he would "probably keep the same team" for the Italy encounter, the Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli suggested fitness concerns would force him to make changes in his own side.

Italy had just two full days to prepare for the Japan fixture and, after an energy-sapping, end-to-end encounter in Recife, Prandelli said his principle concern was allowing his players to recover.

"We're focused on how many players we can get back. The match against Brazil is an important one, and we can't underestimate it," he said.

"The problem is getting some of the physical freshness back. We need to be able to play the next match with the same levels of determination and fitness."

Brazil were made to endure some nervous moments by Mexico before the substitute Jo claimed a second goal in injury time at Fortaleza's Estadio Castelao, just as he had in the 3-0 victory over Japan.

The star of the show, however, was once again Neymar, who followed up his blistering half-volley against the Japanese with a fine volley and the assist for Jo against Mexico.

The 21-year-old forward sought to align himself with the protests sweeping the country by pledging his support for the demonstrators in an Instagram message prior to the game.

His subsequent performance was electrifying, but although he is threatening to sweep the tournament's best-goal competition on his own, he says it does not matter how he finds the net against Italy.

"I'm happy I scored two great goals. The match against Italy will be a very tough one, though," he said. "They're a fantastic team, and I hope I can score against them. No matter how if it helps the national team."

Italy and Brazil have contested some of the most famous games in football history, including Brazil's 4-1 success in the 1970 World Cup final in Mexico and Italy's 3-2 triumph in the second round of the 1982 tournament.

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