Defending World Cup champion Italy is in South Africa for the 2009 Confederations Cup, ready to test themselves once again against the rest of the world. 

The Italians have kicked off their preparations for the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa with a pair of victories in scrimmages in the north of the country.

The Azzurri, as they are known to football fans, tuned up with an easy victory over a team of local all-stars in Tshwane Friday night.  Two days earlier the team took on fellow participants New Zealand in Rustenburg, coming away with a 4-3 victory.

Defender Gianluca Zambrotta says the team has acclimated to the weather in South Africa, and the altitude of the Pretoria region, and is ready to play.

Zambrotta says the team is passing through a good moment in football terms.  He says the cold climate in South Africa has been no bother to the Italians, though they are getting used to the altitude of the area.  Pretoria sits more than a mile above sea level.

Teammate Daniele De Rossi says the Italians are prepared to take on the United States in their first match.

De Rossi says the scrimmages against the local all-star team and the Kiwis have helped to prepare the team for its opening match Monday night. 

He says the game against the United States, which will be a rematch of a 1-1 draw in first round play at the 2006 World Cup in Germany , is sure to be a difficult one.  That match-up with the Americans in the first round of the 2006 World Cup proved the only match the Italians would fail to win in their run to the tournament title.

Another player looking forward to Monday's showdown with the Stars and Stripes is Italian forward Giuseppe Rossi, who was born in New Jersey and spent the first thirteen years of his childhood in the United States, before moving to Italy to pursue his soccer career.

Rossi says playing against the country of his birth will be a special occasion for him.

"Of course, that's the country where I was born, and that's the country where I have my family and friends.  It's going to be a great game to watch, and for me to play against them is always something special," he said.

The Italians begin play in Pretoria against the Americans Monday night.  They will then take on Egypt and Brazil in highly anticipated Group B clashes.