Italy v Costa Rica Preview

Group D | Friday 20 June | Arena Pernambuco, Recife | 18:00




Italy can’t afford to celebrate too much after opening the World Cup with an impressive win over England. The Azzurri have to recover physically after a draining match in the jungle venue of Manaus and prepare to face a surprising Costa Rica side who overcame Uruguay.

To Win (90mins)
Italy 11/20
Draw 3/1
Costa Rica 48/10

ITALY

The World Cup's first rumble in the Amazon did not disappoint as Italy triumphed over England with a 2-1 win.

With the former World Cup champions deadlocked 1-1 into the second half, Italy striker Mario Balotelli delivered the knockout blow to England.

Before the match, the injury news of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made headlines. Once it started, another Italian footballing legend stepped up, by stepping over the ball.

With the match scoreless, 35-year-old Andrea Pirlo set up the opening goal of the contest with a mesmerizing feint with the ball running to Claudio Marchisio who fired a low shot from just outside the box.

Just minutes later, England answered with an equalizer on the counterattack. After Balotelli reinstated Italy's advantage, England could not find a way past the composed Italians.

Italy’s international pedigree means they're expected to do well, but there was little buzz going into the tournament compared to other top European sides.

Following the Azzurri's win over England, it's clear that Italy are dark horses to go far in this World Cup.

Italy have fused their typical defensive style of play with a midfield that looks to keep possession and quick forwards.

The midfield trio of Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Marco Verratti had passing accuracies of 95 percent, 94 percent and 97 percent, respectively.

While Pirlo attempted 108 passes and De Rossi attempted 105, Verratti attempted 61 in just 57 minutes.

To put that into perspective, Steven Gerrard attempted 67 passes in 90 minutes. Italy's forwards, too, had an excellent night.

Candreva made Leighton Baines—arguably the best left-back in the Premier League—look average, beating him and lofting in an inch-perfect cross with his left foot for Mario Balotelli's winner.

Speaking of Balotelli, the AC Milan striker showed once again that he saves his best performances for the national team.

Although he did have a quiet game for the most part, the fact that he can still find a way to score the winner is a testament to his ability and his importance to Prandelli's side.

Even without Balotelli, Italy have quite a few strikers who can come in and do a job like last season’s Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile, while Antonio Cassano is also one who can score goals.

With three points in the bag and this game against Costa Rica, Italy are currently looking favourites to advance from their tricky group.

COSTA RICA

Two goals in four dramatic second-half minutes set lowly Costa Rica on their way to a deserved 3-1 victory over Uruguay on Saturday in the biggest upset of the World Cup so far.

The Uruguayans took the lead in the Group D clash thanks to a disputed Edinson Cavani penalty midway through the first half before the Central Americans turned the match on its head after the break.

Young striker Joel Campbell chested down a cross from the right and slammed a low shot pastthe Uruguayan keeper  after 54 minutes.

Then centre back Oscar Duarte gave Costa Rica the lead in the 57th minute with a brave diving header at the back post from a Christian Bolanos free kick.

Marco Urena completed the remarkable victory with a third in the 84th minute, silencing an army of sky blue-clad Uruguayan fans in Fortaleza's Castelao arena.

It was a sweet revenge for Costa Rica, as Uruguay had eliminated them in the playoffs for South Africa 2010.

Not only was it a sweet revenge but one of the sweetest nights in Costa Rican football history. The Costa Rican keeper, Keylor Navas, was one of two stand out performers.

The Levante shot-stopper made two critical saves during the game and was beaten only from the penalty spot. On top, Costa Rica have a promising skilled attacker who made a big difference in Fortaleza.

Joel Campbell who spent last season on loan at Olympiakos from Arsenal was a constant menace for Uruguay’s defence during the 90 minutes.

Betting PredictionITALY 11/20
Costa Rica did well to expose Uruguay but will have to give an even better performance to threaten the defensive unit of Italy. The Italians look to have peaked back to their old selves at just the right time and their World Cup calibre always make them a confident team. They are priced up at a decent 11/20 to bring the Costa Rican’s back down to earth and are tipped to do just that.  

Written by Wayde Dorkin for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now! 

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