Zaccheroni urges Japanese to play to strengths
© AFP

Asian champions Japan must use brains not brawn if they are to reignite their FIFA Confederations Cup dreams, Samurai Blue coach Alberto Zaccheroni said on Tuesday.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had previously insisted he saw the Japanese - having enjoyed an extra day's rest - as favourites for only the third encounter in history between the two sides.

However, Italian Zaccheroni was having none of that but said even so his team had to show it is made of much sterner stuff than shown in Saturday's opening 3-0 loss to hosts Brazil, when they caved in once Neymar had scored a stunning third-minute opener.

"We should adopt not a physical approach but a technical one," said Zaccheroni, 60, who said he might have to refrain from singing the Italian national anthem in what will be a highly unusual experience for him.

"When I started off coaching I never imagined I would be coaching a team playing against Italy and not in a friendly but a very important competition," said Zaccheroni, who took over as Japan coach in 2010.

Having guided the side to the AFC Asian Cup title in Qatar two years ago and then ensured the team became the first country to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, Zaccheroni now sees his prime task as making an impression in next year's competition, especially given his charges arrived here just days after ending their gruelling qualifying programme.

We should adopt not a physical approach but a technical one.
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni

Yet he insists the Confederations tournament is a useful exercise.

"We are here to get experience for the World Cup next year and to use the opportunity to grow and develop. Japan has improved a lot in the past few years since before I even came along," replacing Takeshi Okada, he insisted.

But against the likes of Italy and Brazil, he reflects there is still a long way to go before the Japanese can see off the creme de la creme.

"We are aware we are up against the vice champions of Europe, and they have got quality right through the team. We will do our best. On June 4, we played Australia and several players just joined up with us the day before as they were playing abroad so there was not much chance to rest. We will do our best," said Zaccheroni, who stressed his admiration for Prandelli.

"Their coach is a friend of mine, whom I admire.'

Zaccheroni said he would look to try to choke off the supply lines to the mercurial Andrea Pirlo, who marked his 100th cap with a superb free-kick goal in the Italians' win over Mexico, as well as keep a close eye on Mario Balotelli.

"We will focus on them but not exclusively, as they have other stars. But the vertical axis linking Balotelli and Pirlo means it is difficult to control them."

Looking back to the Brazil game he added that "if I see early on the team is reserved again I shall make changes to make them take more initiative. You have to play to win. But clearly on paper Italy is stronger, they have few weak points."

Zaccheroni also said the language barrier had had its positive side in Japan.

"I have not been able to learn to read Japanese yet, so I cannot read the articles and that means less pressure from the media."