Italy struggles with jet lag ahead of Confederations Cup
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -- Two days after arriving in Brazil, Italy is still struggling to get over jet lag.
After watching the Azzurri give up a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw with Haiti in a Confederations Cup warmup match Tuesday, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli decided to cancel Wednesday morning's training session and let the players head to the beach.
"There could be a thousand excuses, from the fatigue to the heat to the jet leg,'' said defender Giorgio Chiellini, who did not play in the friendly. "The Italian league ended a month ago but Sunday we're starting a big tournament and we really want to do well.''
Against 52nd-ranked Haiti, Emanuele Giaccherini and Claudio Marchisio scored in the first and 72nd minutes before substitute Olrish Saurel pulled one back with a penalty in the 85th and Jean Philippe Peguero equalized in the 90th.
"When you see someone like (Alessio) Cerci unable to dribble past a man then you know the guys are tired,'' Prandelli said. "We need to improve our physical condition - and work a lot on motivation.''
The Euro 2012 runners-up also struggled in their previous match, drawing 0-0 with the Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifier Friday in Prague.
"In terms of the result it was ugly, there's no doubt about that,'' Prandelli said. "We knew there was a risk when we accepted this match but we knew that it was a game for charity and so we wanted to go ahead with it. But we haven't got over the jet lag yet.''
Proceeds from the friendly went to Haiti relief, efforts three years after an earthquake devastated the country.
In Group A of the Confederations Cup, Italy opens against Mexico on Sunday in Rio, and then faces Japan three days later in Recife and Brazil on June 22 in Salvador.
This tournament is merely a test event for the World Cup in Brazil, which begins exactly a year from Wednesday. The jet leg problem could prompt Italy to arrive earlier in 2014 - assuming it qualifies, which seems likely considering that the Azzurri hold a four-point lead over Bulgaria in Group B of European qualifying.
In Rio, the Italy squad is staying at the Sheraton Barra, located a short walk from the beach. For 2014, the Azzurri are considering basing themselves at more secluded locations in Sao Paulo or Belo Horizonte, where there are large communities of Italians.
On the more positive side from the Haiti friendly was Giaccherini scoring the quickest goal in Italy history. Just 19 seconds in, when the Juventus midfielder steered home a cross from Antonio Candreva.
The previous record belonged to Salvatore Bagni, who scored just 20 seconds into a 1984 friendly with Mexico.
"I'm happy and honored, because it was also my first goal with the national team,'' said Giaccherini, who often plays as a reserve with Juventus. "But I'm disappointed with the result of the match.
"Anyhow, this ugly showing with give us more motivation to approach the Confederations at our maximum,'' Giaccherini added. "Let's hope we see a different squad against Mexico.''
Also at the Sao Januario stadium, home of the Vasco da Gama club, Italy's star striker Mario Balotelli received a positive reception. Often the subject of racist chants in Europe, the crowd of mainly Vasco fans cheered for Balotelli from the start and erupted in celebration when the AC Milan player was sent on early in the second half.
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