Wednesday June 18 2014
Prandelli must adapt for Costa Rica

Cesare Prandelli faces a tough task in deciding his Italy approach against surprise package Costa Rica, explains Alasdair Mackenzie.

Costa Rica’s historic 3-1 victory in their opening World Cup fixture against Uruguay prompted an elated response from neutral fans, as they cheered on the underdogs against one of world football’s most decorated sides.

But as the Azzurri prepare to take on Los Ticos after an excellent opening win against England, an important question must be considered – should their win over the South American giants be considered only an upset?

Costa Rica’s record in the competition may not be the most impressive – once making it to the Last 16 in their debut in Italia ’90 and twice out in the group stage in 2002 and 2006 – but Uruguay paid the price for underestimating a dangerous opponent that thoroughly deserved their win.

Undoubtedly, Prandelli will benefit from Uruguay’s spectacular collapse. Not only does it give the Azzurri an advantage over one of their supposed rivals to top the group, but the result will ensure that Italy’s Coach does not take their second match lightly.

Not that he is the type in any case. But, Italy do traditionally struggle in their second group match in major competitions and the challenge they will face on Friday evening will be a significant one.

Much attention has rightly been paid to the impressive, clinical manner in which the Costa Ricans took their three goals against Uruguay but their foundation still lies in defensive organisation. One of La Liga’s goalkeepers of last season Keylor Navas will provide stiff opposition to the Azzurri’s forward line as, along with his defensive colleagues, he only conceded seven goals in 10 qualifying matches.

Fans of the Azzurri will have been delighted with an excellent win in their opening game against England, but Gabriel Paletta and Andrea Barzagli did not look particularly comfortable up against the pacey Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. Joel Campbell will provide a similarly explosive threat with Bryan Ruiz shouldering the creative responsibilities, but by fielding Daniele De Rossi in a similar ‘enforcer’ role behind the midfield line their threat on the counter attack could be lessened.

With Prandelli’s organisation and a strong and experienced backline, it would seem that the Italians are less likely to be carved apart by the Ticos’ frontline than their haphazard Uruguayan counterparts. However, the Coach must also find a way of breaking down a robust defence that excelled in their opening match.

Michael Umana and Oscar Duarte have a good understanding and form an impressive partnership in the heart of defence. Goalkeeper Navas showed the world his undoubted quality with some stunning saves from Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani in the opening match, and the Azzurri will have to be at their devastating best to get on the scoresheet at all.

Antonio Candreva impressed in the opening fixture, providing a vital link between the midfield and an often isolated Mario Balotelli. His contribution will again be vital, but it is likely that Andrea Pirlo and Marco Verratti will be allowed to dictate play, meaning that Prandelli has a difficult decision to make over what attacking approach to deploy against Costa Rica.

He is in a privileged position with some fantastic options available to him. Many would like to see Capocannoniere Ciro Immobile play up front alongside Balotelli, but the thought of Alessio Cerci, Lorenzo Insigne or Antonio Cassano running at full throttle is likely to be enough to wake up Costa Rican defenders in a cold sweat.

The potential return of Gianluigi Buffon and Mattia De Sciglio provides another huge boost and Buffon’s leadership particularly will be vital in ensuring his side do not become complacent. Prandelli thrived in his natural area of strength against England, a tactical battle, but he must now prepare his players to live up to their positions as comfortable favourites and ensure Costa Rica do not add another chapter to their fairytale story.

Have your say...
Wow Jenkins you really are a pleasant person. So you're criticising Prandelli for a tram selection he's yet to make. The main thing is you're not the sort of person who let's pre-conceptions get in the way of a good rant. We'll continue to ignore you until you say something mildly constructive
on the 18th June, 2014 at 5:48pm
What with all the hype, we need to put out a strong side . Playing 3at the back would be a good shout as three would be no compromise in midfield . Plus it would in able us to play with 2upfront with a wide man . Keep full back in the same position (Darmian) as he played so well !! 3 at the back would be solid enough then back 3 picks itself !! Midfield would be where we overpower the other team with two upfront we can split there defenders up when trying to play it from the back . Awesome
on the 18th June, 2014 at 5:46pm
Maldini's Heir,

Yes, yes, yes, Balotelli up front again, alone in the dark. The most prolific and aggressive goal scorer in many years! Go Super Mario! A recipe for World Cup victory!

Did you see Messi's goal vs Bosnia? Not bad.
He actually took the ball, ran with it around defenders and then kicked it in!

But, in one ear, & out the other...
on the 18th June, 2014 at 4:50pm
Pardon me, but this man is going to screw it up after our first win.

Sirigu is at 100%, whilst Buffon is about 80%. If Gigi concedes goals, the excuse will be ready to go, that his injury is not fully healed. So why play Buffon? There is no justification for this. Sirigu saved us vs England.

I stand corrected. Pirlo should play Friday, but so should Verratti. Pirlo can rest the full 90 mins vs. Uruguay, if we beat Costa Rica.

Prandelli you are a slave to Juventus. Fai schifo.
on the 18th June, 2014 at 4:42pm
Spineless coward, Prandelli.

Why can't he put 2 strikers up front?
Balotelli will spend 70 minutes alone AGAIN.....walking around & waiting for that perfect pass.

Motta & Abate vs Costa Rica? Two turtles.

Sirigu on the bench is foolish. He is fresh & young.
We will NOT go past the quarter finals with Buffon!

And why is the 21 year old Verratti not playing??
He must REST Pirlo for the next rounds.
Play Verratti Friday.

Rotate the players, or they will tire out, you idiot.

on the 18th June, 2014 at 4:12pm
Agree with Adian, drop Paleta. I like the guy and he plays with heart but he just is not quick enough. In this modern era many countries bring their youngest and fastest. We need to be prepared for that. Why isn't Bonucci starting? Is he busy chasing down muggers again?
on the 18th June, 2014 at 2:07pm
It will be interesting to see Urg-Eng to find out if Uruguay totally and completely underestimtd LosTics or if it is simply a case of Uruguay just not being able to make it work. A collection on talented individuals does not make a team!

If Uruguay wins, perhaps Costa Rica is as good as they looked in their first game. Eier way, we have the quality to win this math. We shoud avoi typical Azzuri complaceny and qualify to progress early on. Forza Azzuri.
on the 18th June, 2014 at 2:03pm
My Made Up Team:


Darmian Bonucci Paletta Chiellini

De Rossi

Verratti Motta

Candreva Cassano


Who'd be Italy manager....
on the 18th June, 2014 at 1:25pm
@ adrian gaveglia can't disagree there. I've a funny feeling we'll be seeing Cassano make his World Cup debut. Personally my made up starting 11 is same team as Saturday with Bonucci in for Barzagli, Chiellini to continue at left back (he needs the practice if De Siglio doesn't fully recover!), Motta for Pirlo and Cassano for Marchisio. I think I'm right except he'll go for Motta instead of Verratti. Prandelli's a good one for keeping us guessing!

on the 18th June, 2014 at 1:22pm
@ adrian gaveglia Phh yeah like a team's performance in competitive matches tells us anything! Much better to go on pre-tournament friendlies. Italy are on the same level as Luxemburg right?
on the 18th June, 2014 at 1:16pm
Prandelli, please do not start any Milan players anymore. Muuuuusssssssttttttaaaaaafffffffaaaaaaaaa will be very upset at you...
on the 18th June, 2014 at 1:07pm
Italy should play a full strength team, and ensure that they get all 3 points. They can experiment in the 3rd game, if they win against Costa Rica. Hope the azzurris play to their potential.
on the 18th June, 2014 at 12:51pm
Of course we need to be cautious and not to under estimate them. However, we should have enough quality to win the game!

Forza Azzurri!
on the 18th June, 2014 at 11:44am
he could do a lot of damage against them. Costa Rica didn't really control the game much against a very ordinary Uruguay. I am expecting Italy to dominate possession and carve out lots of chances - the question is will be take them or fall for a sucker punch on the break? One thing for sure Paletta needs to be dropped, i would play Darmian at left back and put Abate at right back to allow Chiellini to got back to CD. Optimistic but realistic that this is Italy and we don't do anything easy!
on the 18th June, 2014 at 11:19am
below Ecuador who when they played England in a Friendly - england were disappointed not to win. Looking at their record they were poor away from Home winning just 2 - had Brazil not been hosts they would not be here. This is the first world cup to have 6th South American teams in the modern era.
What does this mean for Italy? I think Costa Rica looked vulnerable to movement at the back, we know Italy will have lots of the ball but what i would like to see is Cassano in for Verratti. I think
on the 18th June, 2014 at 11:15am
The squad is so strong, I'd love to see try some other combinations (for later WC stages)
(Especially with the gift from Uruguay)

Abate/Darmian Chiellini Barzagli Darmian/De Sciglio
Motta Verrati Marchisio
Cerci/cassano Immobile Insigne

This way, keep the old boys strong and rested,without losing quality on the pitch
on the 18th June, 2014 at 11:12am
I have been predicting Uruguay would finish bottom of the group for the last few months, so was not suprised with Costa Rica's victory. We seem to forget that teams qualification results can give the clearest indicator of a teams quality. Costa Rica finished 2nd below USA but above Mexico in their qualifying group. Mexico and USA have shown themselves over the last few world cups to be no whipping boys - so Costa Rica were bound to be a decent team. As for Uruguay the finish 5th out of 9 teams,
on the 18th June, 2014 at 11:12am

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