Soccer: Italy boss sounds fatigue alarm

Azzurri in Confederations Cup semis after 4-3 win over Japan

Soccer: Italy boss sounds fatigue alarm

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, June 20 - Italy coach Cesare Prandelli praised his side's courage and "ability to suffer" after they beat Japan 4-3 in a thrilling see-saw match in the Brazilian city of Racife to qualify for the Confederations Cup semi-finals. But Prandelli also said he was worried about his side's physical condition, as they looked tired in their second game in four days after Sunday's 2-1 win over Mexico and struggled with the Brazilian heat. The Azzurri started badly and were 2-0 down to a Japan side trained by Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni within 33 minutes. Midfielder Daniele De Rossi pulled a goal back with a header before half-time and Italy took the lead early in the second half with an own goal by Japan defender Atsuto Uchida and a Mario Balotelli penalty. Zaccheroni's side levelled with a Yasuhito Endo free kick but substitute Sebastian Giovinco touched in late in the match to ensure Italy go through to the last four regardless of what happens in next weekend's final group match against hosts Brazil. "It was a hard-fought match made up of lots of mini matches in which the players' physical condition influenced a great deal," Prandelli said. "Japan had an extra day's rest beforehand and that made a difference. "This tournament is wonderful but if they want to safeguard the quality of what's on show, they should give more time for the players to recover. "We were lucky. Japan played much better and in the first half hour we didn't know what to do. "But I'm happy with my players' temperament, their capacity to suffer, and, when the score was 3-3, their desire to go and try to find the opposition's goal. "We changed the formation we used many times and this game will be useful for us for the future". Given the condition of his men and the weather, Prandelli has not ruled out resting players for Saturday's match against five-time world champions Brazil in Salvador. "The players are tired and some may have muscle problems," said the coach. "It's obvious that a match against Brazil is always important, you can't underrate it. "But there's only one priority, the players' recovery". If Italy lose to Brazil they are likely to face the daunting task of taking on reigning world champions Spain in the last four. Spain beat Italy 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012 last year, the only competitive game the Azzurri have lost since Prandelli took over three years ago. The Confederations Cup, which takes place the year before a World Cup in the host nation and features the world champions and the champions of the continents, 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. Italy have qualified for the Confederations Cup as Euro 2012 runners-up because European champions Spain already had a slot as world champs.

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