Monday June 16 2014
Italy’s second match syndrome

Costa Rica may seem favourable opposition, but Luca Persico warns of how second group stage games have recently proved problematic for Italy.

Italy can qualify for the Round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup - depending on the outcome of England-Uruguay - with a victory against Costa Rica. It is seemingly a perfect scenario, but history shows that they should be wary.

The Azzurri are labelled as slow starters, but their recent record in opening tournament matches - five wins in their last nine - far out weighs their return from second games played. The 4-3 victory against Japan at the 2013 Confederations Cup was a first second matchday in 13 years.

Costa Rica’s 3-1 win over Uruguay, and Cesare Prandelli’s respect for them, should mean Italy don’t underestimate Los Ticos, but it may be their recent struggles in second group stage matches that best suggests it won’t be straightforward.

Euro 2000: Italy 2-0 Belgium

Totti 6 (I), Fiore 66 (I)

Italy followed up a 2-1 win against Turkey with a comfortable 2-0 victory over hosts Belgium. Francesco Totti opened the scoring, before Stefano Fiore curled in a delightful second. Dino Zoff’s side would go on to beat Sweden 2-1 and eventually progress to the final.

2002 World Cup: Italy 1-2 Croatia

Vieri 55 (I), Rapaic 73 (C), Olic 76 (C)

One of Italy’s most controversial defeats in recent times. After having a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, Christian Vieri gave the Azzurri the lead early in the second half. Croatia hit back with a quick double, before Italy had a late equaliser ruled out for an apparent Filippo Inzaghi shirt pull.

Euro 2004: Italy 1-1 Sweden

Cassano 37 (I), Ibrahimovic 85 (S)

Antonio Cassano announced himself on the international stage with a well-taken opener. Italy controlled the contest, but were made to pay for not doubling their lead when a Juventus-bound Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck an acrobatic equaliser.

2006 World Cup: Italy 1-1 United States

Gilardino 22 (I) Zaccardo O.G. 27 (USA)

After Alberto Gilardino stooped to head Italy in front, the game descended into chaos. First, Cristian Zaccardo sliced into his own net, then Daniele De Rossi was dismissed for elbowing Brian McBride. USA duo Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope soon followed him down the tunnel, but the Americans held on for a draw.

Euro 2008: Italy 1-1 Romania

Mutu 55 (R), Panucci 56 (I)

Following a crushing defeat to the Netherlands, the pressure was on Italy to get a result. Makeshift centre-back Christian Panucci cancelled out Adrian Mutu’s opener, before Gianluigi Buffon saved the Romanian’s late penalty to keep Italy in the tournament.

2009 Confederations Cup: Italy 0-1 Egypt

Mohamed Homos 40 (E)

Italy failed to honour their 1930s’ inspired strip with a poor Confederations Cup showing that should have been a warning for Coach Marcello Lippi. Mohamed Homos headed in Mohamed Aboutrika’s corner to give Egypt a famous win.

2010 World Cup: Italy 1-1 New Zealand

Smeltz 7 (NZ) Iaquinta pen 29 (I)

Shane Smeltz’s opener was offside, but this result was arguably the lowest point of Marcello Lippi’s woeful second spell in charge. Italy would go on to lose against Slovakia and finished bottom of the group.

Euro 2012: Italy 1-1 Croatia

Pirlo 39 (I), Mandzukic 72 (C)

After a positive 1-1 draw with Spain, Italy were made to work hard by Croatia. Andrea Pirlo’s delightful free-kick gave the Azzurri the lead, but they never looked comfortable and conceded late in the second half.

2013 Confederations Cup: Italy 4-3 Japan

Honda pen 31 (J) Kagawa 33 (J), De Rossi 41 (I), Uchida O.G. 50 (I), Balotelli pen 52 (I), Okazaki 69 (J), Giovinco 86 (I)

Thirteen years after their last second match victory, Italy won a crazy game in a humid Recife. It was an end to end contest that had it all, before Sebastian Giovinco netted the decisive blow.

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Have your say...
Italy is slow. Prandelli doesn't realize that a lone striker will not work . Italy needs two quality forwards to bring fear to the opponets. Chellini is slow, barzagli is slow. No imagination up front. Italy will suffer against Uraguay. Italy will be going home early
on the 20th June, 2014 at 10:20pm
Well done Costa Rica!!!Pirlo and Co prove once again they do not know the off side rule.I was thinking,yes Italy have a team with some tactics...NO
on the 20th June, 2014 at 7:59pm
Play the same team (injuries permitting and bar Palotta) but let CR run themselves into the ground. Posession is the key in that heat. A lot easier to keep hold of the ball than to try and chase opponent to retrieve ball.
on the 19th June, 2014 at 12:57pm
One thing no one has mentioned is what role the ref will play, South American teams have a reputation for dirty play, cheap shots, late slides etc. This WC has put on display some of the dirtiest south American soccer in memory. CR is particularly nasty. Yes, they were the better than Uru, but there should have been at least 1, if not 2, red cards. A south American ref may have some sympathy for that style. His impact on the game is a concern - as are key players escaping the game uninjured
on the 18th June, 2014 at 3:37pm
CR had a great result against Uruguay.So should we fear them?Personally I think not that much.In large patches they were ordinary.This result also had alot to do with the fact Uruguay played very poorly.Also they missed a fit Suarez.

Yes lets not take CR or any team likely but if we stuggle against them then thats very poor.

If we take care of Campbell then we take take of CR.
on the 18th June, 2014 at 9:03am
It's difficult for one man to change the culture of a national football team.Or at least that seems to be the case for Italy.Like I said we do just enough.We don't score 4//5 etc.Even 3 goals is rare.

Against Japan the heat got to us and may do against CR.
Thats why we can't go running around like headless chickens.If we manage to get a 2-0 lead we will probably protect and conserve our energy.
on the 18th June, 2014 at 8:59am
@Sanrella you're correct. In Euro 2012 against Germany, we had some wide open chances, but then incredibly missed, and had agonizing last minutes. But don't you think Prandelli is aiming for more attacking with the current squad though? I just don't think we can hold South American sides the way we did against England. We have to put pressure on them first and keep scoring to let the steam off ourselves. Even against Japan last year, we became disoriented after being continuously attacked.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 10:35pm
@ AMB Campbell is a big concern. Barzagli and Paletta just about managed against Sturridge. The only thing that makes me a little relaxed is that Costa Rica have had their shock and the Azzurri would now be extremely stupid to underestimate them. I'm just glad we didn't play them first!
on the 17th June, 2014 at 3:32pm
Forza Italia you say the old italy were not oriented to score abundant goals but I'm not sure any italy side has been.

Yes Prandelli usually has a more attacking style however we seldom score more than 2 goals in a game.Even when we play the lesser sides where we could expect to score 4/5/6 that rarely happens.

We score 2 then we protect.We always do just enough without going over the top.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 3:22pm
As for resting players,lets remember that those who played against England have played little football the last few weeks.The more they play the more match fit they become and the better their form becomes.

On the other hand those who didn't play against England will suffer with lack of matches so its a delicate balancing game.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 3:18pm
If there's one thing I've learned about the Azzurri its that they are very unpredictable.They can draw 7 games in a row including against Luxumbourg but then put in an excellent performance and win against England.On the other hand they can draw in the world cup against teams like New Zealand and lose to lesser sides also.

Like AMB says lets not get presumptuous about CR.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 3:15pm
Calm down lads. Lets not get carried away like the English do. Otherwise we will become presumptuous like they are. Costa Rica needs to be respected and we must try to get rid of the curse of the teams that start with the C like Corea del Nord, Corea del Sud and Croazia. CP will think of the best possible way to try to obtain a victory and lets hope that is the case. We must stop at all cost Campbell who is an excellent fast player. Uru lost because it underestimated them so we need to be 100%.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 12:53pm
I trust Prandelli's judgement. I think the confederations cup has helped him prepare the team well for this competition.

Beating an England team that people are saying was best performance in 10-15 years whilst not appearing to be fatigued in the jungle is an excellent sign and testament to his preparation skills.

I personally would like to see cassano and/or insigne play on Friday but whoever he plays I trust, he knows more than any of us. :)
on the 17th June, 2014 at 11:13am
I would like to see us attack more against CR and play with more pace.I don't want us to turn into Spain and just make loads of irrelevant passes.Yes we got the record against England with 93.8% accuracy of passing but against CR as has been said we don't need 5 midfielders.

The ideal scenario would be come the 65th minute we are winning at least 2-0 comfortably so then we could bring on Insigne and Immobile for a work out.

I would def start with Cassano to supply Balo.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 10:40am
@ leo and sanrella on balance you're probably right. The players should be able to recover by Friday. Prandelli does like to tinker though so I wouldn't be surprised if he did make some changes. The key thing is to play with the same intensity against Costa Rica as we did against England. With what they showed against Uruguay there's no room for complacency.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 9:52am
I think the scenario for the Costa Rica game will be familiar to the Fluminese game. Italy will probably concede more than 1 goal next game. Especially aerial ball and set piece. But just like the Flu game, we now have scoring machines to outscore our opponents. I agree with MH that we should field the front 3 Insigne, Immobile, Cerci to get the best out of Immobile, and to rest Mario. And, outscoring opponent to win, without keeping a clean sheet seems to be the prevailing theme in this WC.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 2:20am
Traditionally, Italy did bad against lesser teams. They were not used to conceding goals, and then had to break up the defensive teams. The old Italy were not oriented to score abundant goals.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 2:17am
I think Prandelli's preparations and calculations were meticulous. I don't think he's barely shown any main cards just yet. For a fellow European, inexperienced and gung-ho opponent, Italy's midfield held them and used the extreme weather to their advantage. The minimum goal was probably not to lose and not to get major injuries and preserve fitness for the other 2 potentially more physical opponents.
on the 17th June, 2014 at 2:09am
I think its important to appreciate CRs strengths and weaknesses and put out a team that can beat that. Its important to dominate this match and control it and finish it off. The final game is useful for Insigne and Immobile to mess up a Uruguay defence that may already be out by this point. I think its important to keep the pressure on Italy though. Germany like to win and be favourites to build confidence, Italy like pressure to keep them sharp/alert - important for this game.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 9:18pm
CP tested out possible formations and players in the friendlies so maybe he will go with Insigne and Immobile? As against Fluminense? That would keep the majority of the team together.

De Sciglio
De Rossi
on the 16th June, 2014 at 8:42pm
My thoughts are that CP had a specific tactical game plan against ENG which worked very well. He can be more confident of controlling the middle against CR and will look to be more attacking. Maldini's Hair (Intended typo) is right to be cautious about wholesale changes. Continuity or guarding against overworking players? It will be up to 32 at a lunchtime kick off. I hope he brings in De Sciglio if fit and Chiellini to CB, dropping Pallettas hair! We don't need 5 CM so expect changes.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 8:28pm
@leo - Agreed. CP shouldn't take any gambles and disrupt a winning formula at such a crucial stage. At worst maybe replace Verratti or Marchisio with Cassano to give Balotelli some support and give Italy more firepower upfront. I don't think the midfield needs to be packed as it was against England.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 8:26pm
Now with Rossi and Barzagli having injury concerns it seems luck isn't on our side as far as player fitness is concerned.

Not sure if we need to rest players as its almost a week from game 1 to 2.Perhaps Pirlo due to his age needs a rest.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 6:58pm
Maldini...I panicked when I saw your first suggestion, then you added the one about staying the same. I agree with the latter, stick to the same, get three points and then decide what to do. Rule One: Get out of the Group.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 6:17pm
Italy showed me enough to think they have too much for Costa Rica. I don't think they want to have to rely on getting a result against Uruguay. Agree with Maldini's Heir, CP must play Cassano, Insigne and Immobile for next game though...rotation of players/ formations will be key. Costa Rica will play for a draw, that is certain, so CP should be wary of counter attack, especially with pacy Campbell. Italy have to win.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 6:07pm
The approach that Prandelli is applying during this WC is much different than what we did in the past. Italy now attacks & controls the midfield. While we must respect Costa Rica, I think we have the intelligence to win this match. Hopefully we can be in a position to bring on substitutes by the 70th minute to give fresh legs but also and most importantly give them some playing time before starting these same lads in the last game against Uruguay - Cassano - Insigne - Cerci - Bonnucci.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 5:01pm
Doesn't matter who Italy play. Like Ric Flair used to say. "To be the man, you have to beat the man.. WOOOOOOOOOO"

Forza Azzurri!!
on the 16th June, 2014 at 3:50pm
@ Sanrella I think there's a big difference between Colombia and Ivory Coast. The former I can see as being dark horses to reach to the semis if not the final. The latter I don't think are as strong as they used to be. We have to aim for first.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 2:00pm
Past stats count for nothing. So what if they drew their second game 2 years go or even a year ago? Things have moved on. We will take one game at a time and treat every team with respect. I dont think Costa Rica will be a push over - but then again I never thought Uruguay are as good as ppl make them out to be. This is a finely balanced group. Anything can happen.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 2:00pm
As it stands whether we come 1st or 2nd in the group its looking like we would play Colombia or Ivory Coast so not much to choose between the two perhaps.

If we beat them in the last 16 then its looking like we would play either Brazil or Holland.

Brazil aren't the Brazil of old and were lucky against Croatia however they are at home.
Had DeSilva took his chance against Holland then thats 2-0 and probably a Spain victory so am not too sure who I would want to meet if we get that far.
on the 16th June, 2014 at 12:56pm

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