Prandelli questions value of match
SALVADOR, Brazil (AP)
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Struggling to find players fit enough after a draining loss to Spain, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has suggested that FIFA review the worth of third-place games at the Confederations Cup.
Italy face Uruguay on Sunday at the Arena Fonte Nova but less than 24 hours before kickoff Prandelli was still trying to determine which players would be fit enough to play.
''In a tournament with eight squads maybe the third-place match should be put under review,'' Prandelli said Saturday. ''That said, we will honor the match.''
With Mario Balotelli and Ignazio Abate already having been sent home injured before the semifinal, key playmaker Andrea Pirlo, center back Andrea Barzagli and midfielder Claudio Marchisio have now been ruled out with muscle problems.
Also, Daniele De Rossi, Giorgio Chiellini and Alberto Gilardino have not recovered from Thursday's game vs. Spain, which Italy lost 7-6 in the penalty shootout after extra time ended 0-0.
The Spain match was played in searing heat and humidity and the third-place match could be a sweaty affair, too.
With a 1 p.m, it's the only game of the tournament that will start in the middle of the day.
''I've got three players out and three others who haven't recuperated yet,'' Prandelli said. ''Right now it's difficult to say who will play.''
Prandelli will likely resort to forwards like Stephan El Shaarawy, Alessandro Diamanti and Alessio Cerci, who have seen little action thus far. Defender Davide Astori, the only outfield player who has not seen action yet, could also be an option, and Salvatore Sirigu or Federico Marchetti will likely replace captain Gianluigi Buffon in goal.
''It's an opportunity to gain some experience,'' Prandelli said. ''Because we're facing a squad that has a lot of character.''
Entering the tournament, the 20-year-old El Shaarawy was expected to pair with Balotelli in attack like at AC Milan but his only action thus far were the final 18 minutes in the final group game vs. Brazil.
El Shaarawy led Italy's Serie A with 14 goals in the first half of the recently concluded Serie A season but managed only two after Balotelli transferred to Milan in January.
''He had a long season and when as a young kid you reach certain objectives it's difficult to bounce back and do it again,'' Prandelli said. ''If he plays tomorrow he needs to be ready. We'll see.''
South American champion Uruguay features three experienced and talented forwards in Diego Forlan, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez.
Playing for Napoli, Cavani led Serie A this past season with 29 goals.
''It's a squad we respect a lot, a squad that has shown it is able to adapt to any opponent,'' Prandelli said. ''Tactically, this is the toughest match to prepare.''
The Spain match was also a challenge, one that Italy won tactically by many standards, but Prandelli feels this game is tougher because of the physical state of his squad.
''Right now I'm having trouble putting players in place,'' the coach said. ''These are two completely different matches.''
Uruguay lost its semifinal 2-1 to Brazil on Wednesday, a day earlier than the Spain-Italy match.
''It would be ideal if you could organize a tournament where everyone has the same chance,'' Prandelli said. ''If one squad has fewer transfers and more days to recuperate that's an advantage.''