If asked prior to Saturday what Italy would need to do to beat Costa Rica, the answer would likely have come back something to the effect of just showing up, playing their style of play and they would generate chances and ultimately walk over the Costa Rican side. Well, Costa Rica has proven to be MUCH more of a threat than originally thought, after a stellar 3-1 win over Uruguay.
Though Uruguay was missing a target man in Luis Suarez, Costa Rica still completely outplayed Uruguay, and if the Azzurri is not careful, they could fall into the exact same trap. Here are three things the Italians must do to defeat Costa Rica.
Italy Must Stop Costa Rica On Set-Pieces and Crosses
Against Uruguay, Costa Rica had goals off of a free kick and a cross from deep in the corner, and both times Uruguay looked absolutely lost in the box when the ball was sent in. Italy needs to have a rhythm in their back four, to where the full backs drive the ball well out into the wings to make crossing chances difficult, but should they get them off, the center backs need to be able to clear the zone. If the center backs get caught ball-watching, Italy is going to get picked apart, the Costa Ricans are simply too fast. The same rule goes for free kicks, not only does Italy need to be careful conceding them near the 18, but they need to make sure Costa Rica does not run right past the wall and slip in a goal.
Antonio Candreva Needs To Pick Up Where He Left Off Against England
Antonio Candreva led the team with four shots against England, and while notching only one assist, his speed and playmaking abilities, he provided for 79 minutes were absolutely marvelous. If he continues to run rings around defenses, namely Costa Rica on Friday, chances will continue to come in bunches for Italy.
Italy Needs More Production From Their Substitutes
Upon entering in the 73rd minute for Mario Balotelli, Ciro Immobile committed 1 foul and was caught offsides three times, hardly what a team holding on to a one goal lead needed. All the while, Thiago Motta was practically non existent in replacing an also non-existent Marco Verratti. With substitutions like these, made for impact rather than clock management, Italy needs to be able to look at the substitutes as fresh energy, not liabilities. Costa Rica is a fit team, and the substitutions made will be essential for Italy to keep pace, and not one can be a waste.
Nevertheless, Italy performed well against England, and a similar performance will likely yield a similar result against Costa Rica. However, if Italy sleeps on this match, Costa Rica could immediately become the story coming out of Group D.