The third fixture of the Group D is scheduled on Friday, 20 June between the classy Italy and high flying Costa Rica. Both teams are on song and will be looking to get a win for an easy qualification in the round of 16.
Italy’s squad is definitely one of the oldest squad with influential players like Andrea Pirlo, Daniele de Rossi, Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini either approaching their 30s or on the wrong side of it.
But the future looks really good with younger guys like Mario Balotelli, Marco Verrati, Mattia de Sciglio and Alesso Cerci playing like experienced heads. Italy’s coach, Cesare Prandelli has picked a balanced squad which is experienced on the international level, the defence is mostly comprised of the Juventus team.
Most of the first team players are from the Serie A and are playing with a good understanding; continuity from the Euro 2012 tournament has really helped the Azzuuris in making them favourites in the tournament again.
With the tournament having some really strong teams, the footballing hipster has flocked towards the like of Belgium and Colombia to make waves. But nobody in their right minds could have ever placed a bet on Costa Rica to demolish last World Cup’s semi-finalist, Uruguay before the tournament started.
Coach Jorge Luis Pinto had some issues with injuries to his defensive players with the likes of Bryan Oveido and Heiner Mora succumbing to injuries. That department had performed admirably against Uruguay but they would be tested greatly by Italy, more so Mario Balotelli.
The game looks to be an interesting one with the Italian side set up for a possession based play with Pirlo and Rossi controlling the midfield deep from the Italian half. Costa Rica should be set up the exact way they played against Uruguay i.e. hitting on the break. The lacklustre midfield display by Uruguay gave a chance for Bryan Ruiz to work his magic and Joel Campbell to display is technical verve, but both will need to work harder to create an upset against the Italians.
Italy were extremely organized against England and their passing master-class game was widely applauded in the media. Pirlo looks to be the X-factor in the Italians side as his playmaking abilities have not waned a bit. Such is his influence on this Italian team that Italy crashed out of the 2010 World Cup early because Pirlo was injured.
Balotelli was at his languid best in the game against England, without breaking a sweat he scored a goal and had an outrageous attempt at goal thwarted away by England’s Phil Jageilka.
Costa Rica’s squad has a lot of Europe based players and this assembled squad is the best in their World Cup history. Ruiz is the creative fulcrum of the team, but the striker-cum winger, Campbell has impressed a lot; he’s the pick to do some damage against Italy on Friday.
Italy start favourites here with BetBright offering 4/7 for their win to 16/5 (bet365) for a drawn game. Costa Rica are a distant third at 13/2 (Boylesports) to make it their second upset – something that I don’t see happening again.
Over 2.5 goals: 21/20 (BetVictor)
Italy to win by 2 goals: 19/5 (BetVictor)