Costa Rica won’t catch Italians by surprise

Patient Azzurri will be harder to break down in Group D contest in Arena Penambuco

 With  Arsenal player Joel Campbell 
spearheading their frontline, 
Costa Rica 
 have a player capable of providing the cutting edge their smash-and-grab approach demands.
 Photograph: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

With Arsenal player Joel Campbell spearheading their frontline, Costa Rica have a player capable of providing the cutting edge their smash-and-grab approach demands. Photograph: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 11:26

Costa Rica and their collection of nimble attacking talents face Italy ready to produce another World Cup shock.

The Central American nation were meant to be the sacrificial lambs in Group D but stunned Uruguay 3-1 in their opening game in Fortaleza. They were organised in defence and rapier-like on the break, unlike previous Costa Rica teams who relied on maverick individual talents.

“In the national team we’ve managed to build ourselves a little bit like Italy in 2006 – a solid defensive group with very good players in attack,” midfielder Celso Borges said before the tournament.

“When we win the ball we counter-attack quickly. We don’t elaborate too much, it’s more like a knockout punch.”

With Joel Campbell, who scored their opening goal against Uruguay, spearheading their frontline, they have a player capable of providing the cutting edge their smash-and-grab approach demands.

Italy, however, will pose a different type of challenge, after delivering a reminder of their organisation and patience in their 2-1 victory over England in the hot and steamy jungle conditions of Manaus.

They have a long-established tradition of winning games without looking like world beaters, and are unlikely to attack in the same manner as the more tactically naive Uruguay.

Andrea Pirlo showed against England he remains the best midfield controller in the game and despite his advancing years, shrugged off the heat and humidity to dictate the play.

In Mario Balotelli they have a striker capable of capping largely anonymous performances with match-winning goals.

Costa Rica’s victory over Uruguay has also removed the element of surprise and put Italy on their guard.

“The game against Costa Rica is seen as the most dangerous game, because we play at 1pm local time and it will be really difficult,” midfielder Daniele De Rossi said, referring to the likely conditions in the north eastern city of Recife.

Strong players

“Can we beat Costa Rica? There is no longer a World Cup as it once was, like in Italia ’90 when games ended 8-0. Teams are organised, with strong players, and you cannot afford to think Italy will beat Costa Rica just because we are called Italy.”

Italy hope goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Mattia De Sciglio will have recovered 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 in goal, while De Sciglio has a calf problem.

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