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World Cup

  • June 20, 2014
  • • 17:00
  • • Itaipava Arena Pernambuco, Recife, Pernambuco
  • Referee: E. Osses
  • • Attendance: 40285
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Italy - Costa Rica Preview: Buffon back for Azzurri's Caribbean clash

Italy - Costa Rica Preview: Buffon back for Azzurri's Caribbean clash

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After missing the opening win over England, the Juventus shot-stopper is set to return to help Cesare Prandelli's men pursue a spot in the last 16

Italy are hopeful of having Gianluigi Buffon back for their crunch Group D meeting with Costa Rica on Friday, with both sides looking for a victory which could ensure their passage to the last 16 of the World Cup.

Buffon picked up a slight ankle strain during training ahead of the Azzurri’s opener with England in Manaus and, despite Cesare Prandelli initially playing down the injury, the Juventus keeper was ruled out of the 2-1 victory.

Salvatore Sirigu deputised and did well, although there were uncertain moments at corners, and Prandelli is hoping to have his No.1 available for selection despite not knowing the extent of the problem.

“We didn’t have enough time for him to recovery, but I think in a few days he will be available again. He had a sprain so I don't know how long he will be out for."

The coach also praised Matteo Darmian’s impact at right-back, so the Torino man is expected to retain his place in a four-man defence, while Marco Verratti should also start after being taken off against England because of a virus.

Costa Rica also got off to an excellent start earlier on Saturday, roaring back from a goal down to beat Uruguay 3-1.

It was the first time los Ticos had scored more than twice in a World Cup match in 11 attempts, and they came from just four shots on target, all of which were in the second half.

It was also the first time they had ever beaten Uruguay, at their ninth attempt, and they did it with five at the back and four midfielders.

It is unlikely they will be more adventurous against Italy, who recorded the highest pass completion rate (93.2 per cent) of any team at a World Cup since 1966.

The midfield were key to that, with Andrea Pirlo racking up the most individual passes of the 2014 tournament to date against England – 108, with only five missing their target. Ninety-nine of Daniele De Rossi’s 105 passes found a team-mate, too.

If England and Uruguay draw on Thursday, the victor here will seal their passage to the second round.

Players to watch

M. Balotelli

Position: Attacker

Games: 3

  • 1
  • 2
  • 0

As you can essentially take Andrea Pirlo’s excellent contribution for granted, given his performance against England, Mario Balotelli will continue to be the key figure. Following calls that he should be dropped for Ciro Immobile, his goal against the Three Lions was decisive and he will continue to lead the line for his country. His link-up play with his team-mates was impressive, and he displayed superb movement and execution to drift away from his marker and crash a header past Joe Hart. Having been substituted with 13 minutes to go he will feel he still has plenty to prove.

J. Campbell

Position: Attacker

Games: 5

  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
The on-loan Arsenal man provided his side with an outlezt during a difficult first half against Uruguay, and stepped up after the break to get his side on terms with a fine strike, before laying on the third for Marco Urena. Italy’s defence did look a little uncertain at times against England and Campbell could cause further problems by dropping off and linking up with the impressive Christian Bolanos.

Editor's Prediction

Costa Rica showed unexpected and impressive spirit in their 3-1 triumph over Uruguay, but Italy should prove to be beyond the Concacaf nation. Expect the Azzurri to continue their winning start to the World Cup with a simple victory.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Italy

Costa Rica

Wins
0
0
1
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Italy ITA
Italy Italy
Draw
Costa Rica CRI
Costa Rica Costa Rica
73%
17%

Top 3 Predictions

Italy ITA
2 - 0
Costa Rica CRI
Italy ITA
2 - 1
Costa Rica CRI
Italy ITA
3 - 1
Costa Rica CRI

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