Group D’s second round of matches draws to a close with this encounter, between the two leaders. Before last night, you might have suggested that Italy – who saw off a talented England side in their first game – would very much have the edge against Costa Rica – who rallied to beat a very sub-par Uruguay. But now, who knows? Maybe it’s Italy who should be entering into this game feeling all the trepidation. The only other possibility is that Uruguay were rotten in their first match and much better in the second while England did it in reverse. Which hardly seems likely.
In all seriousness, this is a game which Italy should win. Indeed, they need to, unless they want to risk a thoroughly uncomfortable final round of games: not even a victory today would guarantee them passage to the last 16. They were thoroughly impressive in their opener and boast a number of very exciting young talents. Mario Balotelli we know all too well, but they’ve yet to fully unleash the diminutive pair of 21-year old attackers Lorenzo Insigne and Marco Verratti. All of that and world football’s most stylish, effortlessly efficient and handsomely bearded deep-lying playmaker, Andrea Pirlo.
Costa Rica’s win against Uruguay was rather more unexpected but genuinely welcome. The Central American team managed to transcend the level of “plucky upstarts” by mid-way through the second half. By the end of the game they looked like a team as likely to qualify as any of the others in their group. They lack the strength of the Italian squad, let alone the strength in depth. However, the tropical climate in Brazil is likely to be more to their taste than to the Italians’ and, combined with the same spirit we saw last Saturday, a bit of belief and another good game from Joel Campbell – filling the breach after their top scorer Alvaro Saborio was injured just weeks before the tournament began – then who knows?
What is clear is that England will be eliminated immediately should the match finish in a draw.
Richard Grinham and Ted “Vorderman” Carter will guide you through the intricacies of this one.