Italy braced for tough test

19 June 2014 06:17

There are not supposed to be any easy games at the World Cup and Italy are certainly not expecting one against Costa Rica on Friday.

The Azzurri say they have been paying close attention to the Central Americans and have reviewed plenty of recordings of their opponents since being drawn to face them in Group D.

Costa Rica's 3-1 triumph over Uruguay in their opening game in Brazil should have sharpened the Italians' focus even more.

Cesare Prandelli's side will know if they have done their homework properly on Friday as the two teams meet at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife.

"For months we've known about the calendar," Prandelli said at Thursday's press conference. "We have followed with particular interest this team.

"They are very well organised and know their style by heart and their own system of play.

"It's a team to fear a lot and for us it's going to be a rather difficult game."

If Italy are going to have success again after their 2-1 victory over England in their opener, they will have to pay close attention to the attacking play of their opponents.

Jorge Luis Pinto's team tore Uruguay apart in the second half.

"Costa Rica have three players up front that are very strong, so we have to be worried," Prandelli said.

It remains to be seen which players are in the Italy line-up.

Prandelli had to do without captain Gianluigi Buffon in the first game while f irst-choice left-back Mattia De Sciglio also missed the England clash due to a muscular injury.

"Until tomorrow (Friday) we can't say who will play because we have to look at whether certain players have recovered from their minor injuries," Prandelli said. "Yesterday, (Andrea) Barzagli had a minor problem but today he is well.

"We shall see how he is tomorrow morning. If he has less pain, he will play.

"Buffon has taken part in the last three training sessions, (but) he still has a bit of swelling. If the reaction after today's training is good, Buffon will play."

The player who scored Italy's second and decisive goal against England, Mario Balotelli, is eager to play again.

There were many to wonder if he would make Italy's World Cup squad because of his lack of form late in the Serie A season with AC Milan but Prandelli took him to Brazil, with Balotelli rewarding his coach for the faith he showed with a goal.

He was also named the man of the match after the 2-1 win.

Balotelli said on Thursday: "Costa Rica are a very good side and we must respect them, trying to give 200 per cent on the pitch.

"I'm calm, I have no pressure. I want to go as far as possible in this World Cup and score as many goals as possible but the important thing is that Italy wins and progresses."

Costa Rica coach Pinto, meanwhile, says he has been looking forward to the Italy game for a long time.

"This is a dream come true for me because I have watched them play in at least 30 World Cup games," he said. "I've always said that I love how Italy play, their tactical structure, their style.

"I know I will benefit from having watched them for so long."

Pinto believes there is a misconception about Italy.

"I think it's a lie those that say that Italy defend," he said. "I disagree. They are a balanced and structured team."

Costa Rica defender Giancarlo Gonzalez knows a tough game awaits his team.

"We know that Italy are a great rival that has a lot of virtues," he said. "We have worked hard, not just this week but for some time now to try to guess their game plan and win."

Pinto will play with the same formation that beat Uruguay, with Yeltsin Tejeda and Christian Bolanos playing in support of Arsenal forward Joel Campbell.

Source: PA