Italy and Costa Rica each have a chance to move closer to qualification for the Round of 16 when they play each other at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife. Both teams are coming off wins in their opening matches with Italy beat England 2-1 in Manaus in their first game while Costa Rica registered a shock 3-1 win against Uruguay in Fortaleza.
This match has huge implications not just for these two teams, but for England and Uruguay as well. If Costa Rica get a draw or a win against Italy, then England is eliminated from the World Cup. If Italy wins then anything can happen on the last match day of the group stage.
Italy did not look particularly special when they played against England, but that can be attributed to the fact that they were playing in Manaus in the sweltering heat of the Amazon. That being said they are still a very good side that could very easily top the group and make a run to the semis by dominating possession, they completed close to 90% of their passes in the England game. Look for them to try to dominate possession and score from set pieces.
Costa Rica looked like a world class team in their last game. They fell behind early but regained their composure in the second half to complete one of the biggest upsets in the tournament thus far. With Italy figuring to dominate possession look for Costa Rica to take advantage of the few times the Italians turn it over. Costa Rica can be devastating on the counterattack as Uruguay experienced first hand.
The biggest injury concern for either side is the health of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Buffon is often rated one of the top 5 keepers in the world. PSG’s Salvatore Sirigu had a decent outing in goal, but Italy would much rather have Buffon back in goal.
Players to watch:
Costa Rica – GK Keylor Navas, MF Celso Borges, F Joel Campbell, F Bryan Ruiz
Italy – MF Andrea Pirlo, F Mario Balotelli
Kickoff: Noon ET
TV: ESPN and Univision
Italy 2 Costa Rica 2