The Telegraph
Friday , June 20 , 2014
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Ticos keeping knockout punch ready

Gianluigi Buffon

Recife: Having produced a fine performance to beat England in their opener, Italy look to reach the World Cup last 16 with a victory over giant-killers Costa Rica when the two sides clash, here, at the Arena Pernambuco, on Friday.

The four-time champions, though, are wary of the tropical conditions in this part of the world, which is an aspect the Ticos would want to cash in on and produce another World Cup shock after stunning Uruguay 3-1. Midfielder Daniele De Rossi, too, admitted that Costa Rica could enjoy an advantage in the sweltering conditions here, saying Italy were “dying from the heat” last year during the Confederations Cup.

“The game against Costa Rica is seen as the most dangerous game, because we play in the afternoon and it will be really difficult,” De Rossi said, referring to the conditions here. “Can we beat Costa Rica? They’ll be fired up after their win. If they had lost 0-4, then we might have underestimated them. But now there’s no chance of that.

“There is no longer a World Cup as it once was, like in the 1990 edition when games ended in big margins like 8-0 and so on. “Teams are organised, with strong players, and you cannot afford to think Italy will beat Costa Rica just because we are called Italy,” he added.

“Italy have great players like (Mario) Balotelli and (Andrea) Pirlo, someone who controls all of their play. And we have a lot of respect for these players.

“But we’ll hope to benefit from the heavy climate. We are used to playing in these kinds of temperatures,” said midfielder Christian Bolanos, who plays for FC Copenhagen.

The Central American nation, with such a dominant performance against the Uruguayans, showed it’s not here to be sacrificial lambs in Group D. In Fortaleza, Costa Rica showed admirable organisation in defence and rapier-like speed on the break, setting themselves apart from their predecessors.

With Joel Campbell spearheading their frontline, they have a player capable of providing the cutting edge their smash-and-grab approach demands. Yet it remains to be seen whether they will be able to play in a similar vein against Italy, who will pose a different type of challenge.

Cesare Prandelli’s men delivered a reminder of their qualities of organisation and patience in their 2-1 victory over England in the hot and steamy jungle conditions of Manaus. Pirlo proved he remains the best midfield controller currently in the game and despite his advancing years, shrugged off the heat and humidity to dictate play against Roy Hodgson’s young side.

Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio is expected to retain his place just behind lone striker Balotelli. Italy would also hope goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Mattia De Sciglio recover from injury in time for the game after both missed the win over England.

Buffon twisted his left ankle and was replaced by Salvatore Sirigu under the bar, while De Sciglio has a calf problem. Sirigu, though, had done a pretty commendable job as ’keeper against England and it shouldn’t be a major concern for the Italians should he continue to be part of the playing XI.

No matter what approach Italy take or the XI they field on Friday, the Costa Ricans look to play a positive brand of football. Medio Jose Miguel Cubero made it clear that his team has no intention of playing for a draw.