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Italy, Brazil set for crucial clash

WORLD champion Italy faces Brazil in the Confederations Cup today knowing that even a win might not be enough to prevent an early exit.

The Italians are in a precarious position in Group B after a surprise defeat at the hands of Egypt on Thursday and the 2006 World Cup winner now faces Brazil at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

"We've simply got to win," coach Marcello Lippi told reporters. "We will try to take the initiative."

Brazil, on six points, needs just one more to secure top spot but could still fail to qualify for the semifinals. All four teams in the group can still make the last four.

Egypt faces the United States and victory for the African champion in Rustenburg today could deliver an unexpected spot in the last four.

Italy and Egypt are on three points, with the Italians holding a slightly better goal difference. The US has yet to score a point but could still qualify by thrashing Egypt and a defeat for Italy.

Egypt came off second best to Brazil in a seven-goal thriller before beating Italy 1-0 in Johannesburg.

Defender Wael Gomaa said the match against the US would be hard but Egypt was "so close now we can feel the semifinals".

The Italy-Brazil match is one of the most anticipated in the eight-team competition in South Africa. European champion Spain is the other top contender in the tournament, which is being used as a World Cup warm-up.

"It's a world classic," Brazil midfielder Gilberto Silva said. "Regardless of the teams' situation, it's going to be a very heated match."

The Italians are confident they can overcome the Brazilians. "Brazil is certainly in better form in terms of skill and ball control, but I think we're in better form physically right now," Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said.

The Italians have been downplaying the importance of the Confederations Cup and blaming injuries for their disappointing performances.


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