Arena Pernambuco, Recife
June 20, 2014; 17:00 BST
Italy and Costa Rica go head to head at Recife and the winners of this game will take a giant step towards reaching the next round in Brazil.
Italy won their opening game of the tournament against England as Mario Balotelli scored the winner in the second half, and they are once again the favourites to pull out a similar performance against Costa Rica. But their opponents have already showed that they are more than capable of pulling off an upset and the Italians are unlikely to take them lightly in this game.
Costa Rica will be buzzing from their win over Uruguay in their opening game and will head into this match knowing that they now have a big opportunity to qualify from this group of death if they have favourable results in the remaining two matches. Costa Rica has never won two consecutive games at the World Cup, but even a draw could put them in good position to book their place in the next round and cause a major upset.
Team news and tactics
The fitness of Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon remains Cesare Prandelli’s biggest concern ahead of this clash against Costa Rica. Buffon, along with AC Milan defender Mattia De Sciglio missed Italy’s opening game against England due to injuries. Both the players are back in training, and will have to wait for a late fitness test before being made available for selection.
Andrea Barzagli and AS Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi have also reportedly picked up knocks in training and will be assessed before the match, but the duo is expected to be fit for this game.
Few changes are expected to be made to the team which won the opening game against the Three Lions. Gabriel Paletta, who looked a bit shaky at times, is expected to be replaced by Leonardo Bonucci in the center of the defence. But if De Sciglio regains his fitness for this match, Prandelli could shift Giorgio Chiellini, who started as a left back in the last match, to the role of a center back alongside Barzagli.
Matteo Darmian, who impressed against England, is expected to retain his place at the right back ahead of Ignazio Abate, while De Sciglio, who is versatile enough to play on the left, starts on the other wing.
Both Antonio Candreva and Claudio Marchision performed wonderfully against England and will retain their place on the wings. The only change in the midfield might come in form of Thiago Motta, who came on as a substitute in the last game. The 31-year-old could replace his PSG team mate Marco Verratti at the center of the park.
Expected starting line-up (4-1-4-1): Buffon (GK); Darmian, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; De Rossi; Candreva, Motta, Pirlo, Marchisio; Balotelli
Unlike Prandelli, Jorge Luis Pinto doesn’t have any injury concerns to contain with ahead of this fixture. La Sele made a fantastic start to their campaign as they shocked the world with a win over Uruguay in their opening game with an amazing performance. Pinto is unlikely to make any changes to the starting line-up he fielded against the South American side, although it will be interesting to see if he makes any tactical changes.
Costa Rica used a 5-4-1 formation against Uruguay with Arsenal forward Joel Campbell leading the line. They showed great pace and determination while moving forward in attack with both full backs Cristian Gamboa and Junior Diaz providing them width.
Costa Rica’s biggest concern will be to contain Italian midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo, who once again controlled the game, alongside De Rossi in the midfield, against England. Joel Campbell might be asked to drop deep when Italy have possession and put pressure on Pirlo when he is with the ball. Yeltsin Tejeda is likely to help him out in that role.
Most of Italy’s attack came down their right wing with Candreva and Darmian combining well against England. Christian Bolanos will have to track back and help out Diaz in dealing with this threat, or he could be left exposed like English left back Leighton Baines.
Expected starting line-up: Navas (GK); Diaz, Umana, Gonzalez, Duarte, Gamboa; Bolanos, Tejeda, Borges, Ruiz; Campbell
Players to watch out for: Andrea Pirlo (Italy); Joel Campbell (Costa Rica)
Prediction: Italy 2-1 Costa Rica