Zaccheroni poses Japan's biggest threat, warns Prandelli

The 54-year-old believes his compatriot is a “great” coach and represents the Asian champions’ likeliest route to victory, while praising the form of Mario Balotelli

Cesare Prandelli has admitted that he will be “most afraid” of opposition coach Alberto Zaccheroni when Italy face Japan in the Confederations Cup on Wednesday.

The Azzurri kicked off their participation at the World Cup dress rehearsal with a 2-1 victory over Mexico, while their Asian rivals crumbled at the hands of host nation Brazil.

And speaking ahead of the clash, the Italy boss revealed that he would make several changes from their opening-day success but pin-pointed his fellow trainer as Samurai Blue’s biggest threat.

How many changes [have I made]? Two, three, four … the other night we spent a lot of time on the training pitch,” he told reporters.

There will at least be the additions of Maggio on the right wing and Aquilani through the middle.

Japan are coached by a great coach in Zaccheroni who knows how to balance the teams. His players have great chemistry. But I’m afraid most of the coach himself.

“Compared to the match against Mexico it will be different, but the difficulties are similar.”

Mario Balotelli stole the plaudits following his goal and all-round performance in Italy’s win against Mexico, and Prandelli spoke of his content at seeing the AC Milan striker performing on the international stage.

“Talking about Mario is difficult, because at any moment he can do something, but he is very motivated and is helped by his colleagues,” he added.

He found a team who want to win and give their best, these things can help him grow. He has tremendous potential and we must put him in a position to do well, but he must still do his part.

“As for racism [in the wider scheme of Brazil’s problems]? He can become an example.”

The former Fiorentina and Parma coach then reflected on the Under-21 side’s defeat to Spain in the European Championship on Tuesday, and while he conceded la Rojita remained the benchmark, he believes a number of Italy players are already good enough for the senior side.

The boys played great at the European Championship, but we are still a bit behind because the Spanish always seek victory throughout the 90 minutes. We only do it only occasionally,” he continued.

[Marco] Verratti, [Lorenzo] Insigne, [Alessandro] Florenzi and [Fabio] Borini are ready to play for the national team.”

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