Recife plays host to a crunch group D match between Italy and Costa Rica. Both teams have won their first group games, against England and Uruguay respectively, and a win tonight for either team will all but seal their place in the Round of 16.
After winning their last game against England, Italy will look to line up in similar fashion. A 4-3-3 narrow formation could be opted, with Antonio Candreva and Claudio Marchisio preferred wide over other specialist wide men. Andrea Pirlo is expected to play the starring role yet again, and the enigmatic Mario Balotelli is widely expected to provide the fireworks up front against a largely average Costa Rica side. Captain Gigi Buffon’s inclusion is uncertain after he missed the opener against England with a knee injury.
Costa Rica will hope for a repeat of their famous win over Uruguay as they will setup in their familiar 5-4-1, with a special emphasis on sitting deep and counter-attacking. Joel Campbell is their obvious threat after his match winning display against Uruguay, and captain Bryan Ruiz and the experienced Christian Bolanos would look to feed him on breaks. The backline sits pretty deep, with the exception of right back Christian Gamboa, whose link-up with Campbell will yet again be Costa Rica’s chief attacking outlet.
Joel Campbell v Italian defence
Campbell produced a display for ages against Uruguay, and Cesare Prandelli will be aware of his threat. He might even opt for Thiago Motta as added cover in place of the more adventurous Marco Verratti to stop Campbell from dropping deep and picking the ball and starting on his direct runs at goal. Gabriel Paletta is inexperienced and could be troubled significantly by the mobile Campbell; it would be a battle worth watching.
Andrea Pirlo’s ability to break the Costa Rican bus
As seen in their previous match against Uruguay, Costa Rica defend pretty deep and allow their opponents to play in front of them. Andrea Pirlo has been the string puller for Italy for long, and his ability to pick defences and tear them apart from deep-lying positions will be tested to the limit as he comes up against a deep defending two banks of defensive wall. Whether Pirlo could manage to break down Costa Rica in direct play is a question, but he is too elusive to be outthought and outmanoeuvred.
Italy’s left side
Italy’s left flank looks a tad unconvincing; with makeshift left-back Giorgio Chiellini expected to line up alongside makeshift wide man Claudio Marchisio. Marchisio likes to stray into central areas, while Chiellini, although putting up a fine display against England, is a centre back by trade. While Costa Rica’s most potent attacking outlet is their right flank. It would be an interesting battle with bombing right-back Christian Gamboa motoring ahead and linking up with Joel Campbell with captain Ruiz playing as the linker between the two.
An easy Italy win was the general consensus a few days ago, but after Costa Rica’s upset of Uruguay, the game is widely expected to be a close run one. A tense 2-1 win for the Italians, with some help from the referee is my call.