The Italy vs Japan Confederations Cup match, held at the Arena Pernambuco, ended 4-3 in favor of the ‘azzurra’ in what has been the best match in the competition. With the win, Italy reached to 6 points, and qualified into the semifinals along with Brazil, also with 6 points. Japan gave a brave performance, and were the better team for longer periods, but a shaky defense has lead to their elimination from Brazil.
The Italy vs Japan match was dynamic from the first minute to the last. Japan came into the match with the knowledge that a loss meant elimination, a tie would put them on life-support, but a win would have allowed them to fight until the end against Mexico. Considering the circumstances, Japan used an offensive scheme, and this was evident in the 21st minute after a long ball that lead to a penalty and Japan’s first goal. Soon after in the 33th, Shinji Kagawa made a nice kick to Gianluigi Buffon’s left corner which put the game at 2-0.
Japan’s major malfunction this Confederations Cup was the defense. In two matches they have received 7 goals (lost 3-0 against Brazil), and the defense was the reason the Asian Cup champs lost in Recife. To end the first half the score was 2-1, but entering the second 45 minutes, Italy became more aggressive and scored 2 goals within the first 7 minutes putting the game at 3-2.
The 3-2 score affected Japan’s form for some minutes, but at the same time Italy began to look tired, as they had one less day to rest than Japan. In the 69th minute, Japan’s Shinji Okasaki scored a great header after a set-pieces, leaving Japan with the game’s full momentum. As things began to look as if Japan was going to score their game winning 4th goal, Italy began to counter-attack. Once again, Japan’s defense left too many holes, and after a quick attack in the 86th minute, Italy scored the game winner.
With the 4-3 score, Japan says good-bye with their heads held up high. They demonstrated that they have a strong, technical offense which could be a good force in next year’s World Cup. As for Italy, they go on into the semifinals with a defense to fix, but with a high morale due to their efficient offense.