COMMENT: The Azzurri know only too well that they will be made to suffer in Recife on Saturday afternoon - either by their opponents or the oppressive conditions
"We really, really suffered," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli admitted in his post-match interview. "We need to deal better with the climate; it's really difficult."
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As Prandelli pointed out on the eve of the Group D clash, "South and Central American teams have the advantage here because they live and work in these conditions." Costa Rica are well aware that the venue favours them.
"It's really hot here,” winger Christian Bolanos stated on Wednesday. "We know that the climate will be better for Costa Rica. People from Europe find this type of climate tough. For Costa Rica, it is much more similar to what we are used to.
"The Europeans have to adapt a little bit more. They have to change some things [about how they play] a little bit because of that. We know that we have to take advantage of that."
Worse still for Italy, Costa Rica will be brimming with belief when they take to the field at Arena Fonte Nova thanks to a sensational start to their World Cup campaign. Written off before the tournament had even begun, Jorge Luis Pinto's men blew Group D wide open by defeating Uruguay 3-1 in Fortaleza. This was no fluke win either. This was a fully merited victory over a side still containing several members of the squad that finished fourth in South Africa four years ago.
Prandelli insisted that he had not been surprised by the result. "We've known the draw for months, so we've closely studied this very well organised squad, who know their system of play off by heart," the Italy coach explained. "What we saw in Fortaleza tied in with exactly what we've seen of Costa Rica during our scouting.
"They play with a European style, so I expected this [performance against Uruguay]. But all of our players know what to do and that it will be a difficult game.
"Costa Rica are a complete team and we can't have just have one tactic against them."
Prandelli's trepidation is understandable. Not only did Costa Rica prove themselves a formidable counterattacking side, Italy have previous when it comes to underestimating less fashionable opponents.
After all, they entered the 2010 World Cup as proud reigning champions; they exited a red-faced laughing stock, having finished bottom of a group containing Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand. The 1-1 draw with the All Whites was a particular lowlight, the Azzurri only spared an embarrassing defeat by a penalty equaliser from Vincenzo Iaquinta.
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Consequently, he has been impressing upon his players the perils of taking Costa Rica lightly. “In one sense, it's the most dangerous game in the group for us," he warned.
The message seems to have got through the players. "We will have to give 100 per cent, maybe even more,” midfielder Thiago Motta stated earlier this week. “We will treat it as a final."
Daniele De Rossi, meanwhile, described Costa Rica’s win over Uruguay as an “alarm bell”.
"We should fear them a bit," the Roma ace argued. "You need a healthy fear against a team that surprised everyone with their victory over Uruguay. Nobody thought they would get such a clear result against a very strong side.
"They'll be fired up after that win. If they had lost 4-0 then we could've underestimated them, but in this case we cannot possibly do that.”
Indeed, Italy have been warned. They know full well what awaits them in Recife. They know what to expect from Costa Rica. They know what to expect from the conditions. Win, lose or draw, they're going to suffer again.
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