Rome

Soccer: Italy embark on Confederations Cup campaign

Azzurri set for friendly against Haiti on Tuesday

Soccer: Italy embark on Confederations Cup campaign

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, June 10 - Italy landed in Rio de Janeiro on Monday to take part in the 2013 Confederations Cup. The Azzurri were set for their first training session in Brazil later on Monday ahead of a warm-up game on Tuesday against Haiti. Cesare Prandelli's men have their opening Confederations Cup match against Mexico at Rio's fabled Maracana stadium on Sunday. Italy are in the same Confederations group as North American champions Mexico, hosts Brazil and Asian champions Japan. Italy have qualified for the Confederations Cup as Euro 2012 runners-up because European champions Spain already had a slot as they are the world champs. The Cup, which takes place the year before a World Cup in the host nation and features the world champions and the continental champions, is not considered a major tournament. But Italy's failure at the 2009 Confederations Cup proved to be a foretaste of the then-holder's embarrassing group-stage exit at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. So Prandelli has told his side he wants them to take the competition seriously this time. The Azzurri are top of European qualifying Group B for next year's World Cup in Brazil with 14 points from six games, four more than second-placed Bulgaria, after Friday's 0-0 draw away against the third-placed Czech Republic. "I love Brazil," Italy forward Mario Balotelli, who was sent off in Prague on Friday, said via Twitter after the team landed in Rio. Balotelli has been at the centre of the umpteenth media storm for his angry reaction to Friday's red card for two bookings. He repeatedly kicked and punched the walls of the tunnel to the locker rooms and then directed his rage at critics via his Twitter account, telling them to support another country at the Confederations. The 22-year-old, who has a volatile temperament and a poor disciplinary record, apologised via the @FinallyMario account soon after. "My reaction was not right, I apologise... SORRY... To my team... I need to learn... still," tweeted the striker, whose image as rebel has been cemented by his surly attitude and a series of bizarre headline-grabbing off-field antics. Last week Balotelli was also involved in a Twitter spat with Usain Bolt after Jamaica's six-time Olympic sprint gold medallist said he was not endeared by the soccer player's attitude. Prandelli said he will have a talk with Balotelli about his social-media usage. "In the next days we'll talk about Twitter," Prandelli told ANSA. "I liked the second message (with the apology) more. "Mario must understand that he will always be subject to provocation, like all the great players. "If he learns, he stop opponents' games, otherwise he will always be provoked". The gate revenue for the Haiti friendly will go to help the Caribbean country's reconstruction effort after the earthquake it suffered in 2010.

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