Italy (Italia) and Costa Rica match up next on Friday, June 20th in Recife, Brazil. That part of the equation was known months ago. The surprising part, now, is that these two squads are playing for the sole possession of the driver’s seat in the dangerous Group D.
The Italians had a solid showing in a 2-1 win over England in their first game. Salvatore Sirigu had a very impressive showing despite the tall task of replacing the Italian legend, Gianluigi Buffon, at goalkeeper. Sirigu had seven saves against the Three Lions in his World Cup debut. While the midfield duo of Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio created plenty of chances for the Azzurri, and Marchisio found the net in the 35th minute.
Costa Rica showed plenty of resilience in their come-from-behind win against Uruguay on Saturday. After conceding a penalty kick goal in the first half, “Los Ticos” proved they are not to be taken lightly with three second half goals. Costa Rica could be considered to be playing with house cards, at least up to that point; but now they have shown they came with no fear of the bigger names and they look to take advantage of their opportunity to advance.
With a great battle looming, three points up for grabs, and control of Group D, here are three things to keep an eye on in this pivotal match-up.
1.) The Italian Goalkeeper Position
The Azzurri find themselves in a unique position now, because of the aforementioned Buffon, who tweaked his ankle prior to the first match. Salvatore Sirigu filled in nicely for the Italian squad. He has also said he would happy to return to his spot on the bench if Buffon is healthy enough to play, claiming Buffon’s leadership and experience are important aspects for the squad if Italy hopes to advance. With Buffon being a game-day decision, this becomes an interesting point to watch prior to kickoff. Sirigu proved he can do the job, but Buffon is their guy and he has been the Italian’s guy for a long time now.
2.) Joel Campbell
The 21-year-old phenom had a goal and an assist in Costa Rica’s stunner over Uruguay. Joel Campbell, more so than anyone else, is using the house money of Costa Rica and he is throwing his own coming out party. Campbell has a rocket of a left foot and a great knack of finding shots around the 18. He does not need a lot of space to feel confident taking a strike, thus leading to a lot of quality shots, and who doesn’t like to watch a young forward shooting relentlessly?
3.) Andrea Pirlo
If you don’t fancy forwards taking lots of shots, but would rather watch control and possession, well that is in this match, too. On Saturday, Italy broke a World Cup record with their 93 percent passing accuracy. Andrea Pirlo, the midfield magician who makes it all work, completed 103 of his 108 passes attempted. The 35-year-old Pirlo runs the midfield, and the Italian attack, spraying balls everywhere across the pitch, igniting the Azzurri attacks.
Pirlo does it all, and it is very impressive to watch a man, past his prime, dominate a game the way he does. He snuffed out a couple English attacks on Saturday. He rattled the crossbar with a bending free kick late in the match. And even when he isn’t touching the ball, Pirlo is causing fits for the defense; as he did when he dummied a pass (purposely allowing it to go through his legs) for Marchisio, which led to the first goal of the match.
Friday’s match should provide plenty of excitement and the chance to watch one up-and-coming star take on a living legend, who has hinted at retirement from the international level once the World Cup is over; all for three points in Group D.