Italy v Costa Rica – Italian Ingenious To Strike Again
Italy v Costa Rica
Italy will be confident of securing a second win in a row at the group stages over Costa Rica in Friday’s early game in Recife.
The Azzurri made light of the stifling conditions in the jungle of Manaus to run out worthy 2-1 winners over a young and eager England side who couldn’t put the Italians under enough pressure to really test them consistently. Claudio Marchisio gave Italy the lead seven minutes before the break with a fine strike from outside the area which whizzed past a clutch of bodies before finding the bottom corner of Joe Hart’s net.
Marchisio’s goal owed much to an ingenious stepover from the incomparable Andrea Pirlo to create the opportunity and
the Juventus man was a class apart throughout the game, attempting a record number of passes for any World Cup game to date.
England fashioned a fine goal to equalise just two minutes later through Daniel Sturridge but were undone again five minutes after the break when a wonderful cross by Andrea Candreva was converted by Mario Balotelli at the back post to give Italy a first win in eight games.
Costa Rica pulled off arguably the shock result of the opening round of fixtures when they beat Uruguay 3-1 to earn only their second win in seven attempts. Edinson Cavani’s penalty in the 24th minute gave the South Americans a 1-0 lead going into half-time before an inspired second half showing from the Ticos turned the game on its head and gave their opponents a mountain to climb in order to reach the knockout rounds.
First Joel Campbell struck a fine finish in the 54th minute before an excellent header from Oscar Duarte put the Costa Ricans into a shock lead. As Uruguay then desperately pressed for a goal to put them back on level terms late on Campbell – who put in a fantastic performance – slid a fantastic ball into the run of substitute Marco Urnea and he made no mistake to slot beyond the onrushing goalkeeper and give his side a memorable win.
Goalkeeper Gigi Buffon is again a doubt for Italy after being forced to sit out the win over England with an ankle problem. Boss Cesare Prandelli looks unlikely to make any changes then to a side that performed well with Paris Saint Germain goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu set to deputise for Buffon between the sticks.
Mattea De Sciglio is available once again but the young Milan defender is expected to be on the bench despite recovering from a hamstring problem. Prandelli may opt for a slight change in formation though with Daniele De Rossi likely to occupy a more advanced role.
Following Saturday’s stunning comeback over Uruguay, coach Jorge Pinto seems unlikely to make changes although Urnea could be rewarded for his neat finish immediately after coming off the bench with a starting berth, perhaps at the expense of Bryan Ruiz. Campbell will again lead the line after an excellent performance when his all action showing ran an ageing defence ragged.
The Italians were 2-0 winners on the only previous occasion these sides have met back in a friendly in August 1985.
Italy are rightly made heavy favourites at 8/15 to earn the win which would all but guarantee them of a place in the last 16 with a match to spare. Their tournament know-how is second to none and although Pinto’s side will be buoyed by their surprise victory it would take a braver punter than I to take them even at chunky 13/2 odds.
4/5 odds on under 2.5 goals looks the pick of the bets overall, while a nibble on 1-0 or 2-0 correct scores for Italy at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively look right.