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.