2013 Confederations Cup: Italy vs Uruguay - Preview
Salvador: After each suffering late heartbreak in the Confederations Cup semi-finals, Italy and Uruguay will attempt to rouse their weary bodies for Sunday`s third-place play-off in steamy Salvador.
Uruguay will start with a distinct physical advantage, their 2-1 loss to Brazil having taken place a full 24 hours before Italy`s stamina-sapping 7-6 penalty shoot-out defeat by Spain in Fortaleza on Thursday.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli was particularly concerned about the lack of recovery time available to his players following a 120-minute slog amid the cloying humidity of Estadio Castelao.
He even proposed a change to the format of the tournament, to allow teams more time to recover, while centre-back Giorgio Chiellini told Rai Sport he was "struggling to breathe" at the end of the game.
To compound matters, Sunday`s match at Arena Fonte Nova will start at 13:00 local time (1600GMT), when temperatures in tropical Salvador are forecast to hit 26 degrees Celsius with 75 percent humidity.
Given their exertions against Spain, captain Gianluigi Buffon has admitted that the quick turnaround before the Uruguay encounter represents a difficult challenge.
"The final would have been nice. You don`t get to play at the Maracana every day. But if we had got there, we might have had to play on all fours," said the Juventus goalkeeper.
"Now we will give our all against Uruguay, because our holidays have not started yet."
The Spain game appears to have taken a heavy toll on Prandelli`s squad, with reports in the Italian media suggesting Chiellini, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Barzagli could all miss Sunday`s match due to either injury or fatigue.
Striker Mario Balotelli and right-back Ignazio Abate had already been ruled out of the tournament by injury, but Uruguay striker Luis Suarez believes the Azzurri are still an intimidating prospect.
"Even without Balotelli they are dangerous," the Liverpool striker told Brazilian website Globoesporte.
"They have a lot of quality players, like (Sebastian) Giovinco. We will have to take our chances because they can punish us."
Italy were widely praised for muzzling Spain in the first half of Thursday`s game and Prandelli said the performance augured well for their World Cup qualifying campaign.
However, whereas Italy are currently four points clear of nearest rivals Bulgaria in UEFA qualifying Group B, Uruguay`s chances of returning to Brazil next year are in the balance.
The South American champions are five points adrift of the automatic CONMEBOL qualifying positions, but coach Oscar Tabarez believes his team`s displays during the Confederations Cup prove they are worthy of a berth at the World Cup.
"If we play like this we are in a position to play anyone, and that is ground that we have gained for the qualifiers ahead," he said.