Pirlo focussed on task at hand

2014-06-23 20:01

Natal - Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo is focussed solely on stopping Italy suffering a second successive humiliation in the first round of the World Cup, and not on his impending retirement from the Azzurri.

Pirlo, who played a pivotal role in Italy's last World Cup triumph in 2006, announced last week the 2014 finals in Brazil would be his last for Italy.

But ahead of a "make-or-break" clash against Uruguay in Natal on Tuesday, the 35-year-old Juventus midfielder said he is concentrated only on making sure Italy gain a morale-boosting win against their south American Group D rivals.

"My only focus now is on winning this game and keeping us in the competition," said Pirlo.

"I haven't even begun to think about the future."

With Costa Rica already through and England eliminated by the Italians' defeat to the central Americans in Recife, Italy and Uruguay -- who both have three points -- have been left to battle for the second qualifying spot.

Uruguay's inferior goal difference means they have to win if they are to have a chance of repeating their exploits of 2010 when coach Oscar Tabarez steered the 1950 champions to their first semi-finals appearance in 40 years.

Striker Luiz Suarez, who hit a brace in a 2-1 win over England, said Uruguay will look to capitalise on "tired" Italy's struggles with the hot and humid climate, as well as their shaky defence.

"Italy have been fatigued by the heat, so we have to capitalise on the space that could open up," Suarez was quoted as saying in www.gazzetta.it.

Pirlo, a two-time Champions League winner with former side AC Milan, was conspicuously absent, due to a calf injury, from most of Italy's winless, first-round elimination in 2010.

The Azzurri have found themselves in a similar predicament, but Pirlo, known as the "architect" for his silky creative skills, claims Italy are not worried.

But he admitted: "All World Cup games are important, but this one's like a semi-final or a final.

"It's not causing us too much concern, but of course it's a fundamental game. It's make or break.

"Obviously it would be a huge disappoinment for the whole squad if we didn't go through to the second round.

"And I don't want to finish my career with a World Cup elimination.

"But we have the capabilities to win this game. We won't be going out there looking to draw."

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is expected to shake up his side following a lifeless display against Costa Rica.

But the 56-year-old coach said Italy's tactics will not be decisive: "It's not just tactics that will decide this game.

"We need to go out and show our character, determination and competitiveness."

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