Italian team wary of threat Costa Rica poses

Last updated 08:00 19/06/2014

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Costa Rica's  impressive 3-1 win over Uruguay was one of the biggest surprises in the opening matches of the World Cup.It certainly got Italy's attention.

"That alarm bell could be an advantage for us," Azzurri midfielder Daniele De Rossi said.

"It should help us enter prepared like we did against England. If they had lost 3-0 or 4-0 to Uruguay maybe we wouldn't. But now I'm sure that won't happen.

"Coming off an impressive 2-1 win over England, Italy faces Costa Rica on Saturday at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife.

Costa Rica entered the World Cup ranked 28th and was expected to be the doormat squad in Group D alongside three former champions that have accounted for seven titles between them - four for Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), two for Uruguay (1930, 1950) and one for England (1966).

"It's a squad that surprised everyone," De Rossi added. "Nobody expected them to beat a big team like Uruguay so handily."

Costa Rica and Italy each have three points but the central American side tops the group on goal difference.

A win for either Italy or Costa Rica would just about assure a spot in the next round.

Italy will be wary of Costa Rica forward Joel Campbell, the 21-year-old who scored one goal and set up another against Uruguay.

"I faced Campbell with Olympiakos in the Champions League and he already impressed me then," Italy goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu said.

While Sirigu performed admirably against England, he could return to the bench with captain Gianluigi Buffon working his way back from left ankle and knee injuries.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli will also probably make a change in defence, with Giorgio Chiellini moving over from left back to take over for Gabriel Peletta in the centre and Ignazio Abate coming on at fullback.

In midfield, Brazilian-born Thiago Motta could replace De Rossi, who had neck pain after the England game.The match will kick off at 1pm local time (4am NZ time) and - depending on the weather - that could mean playing under a scorching sun.

"Last year we played Japan in Recife at 9pm. and we were dying," De Rossi said, recalling how the Azzurri struggled to overturn a two-goal deficit and beat Japan 4-3 in a wild Confederations Cup match.

Costa Rica is "more accustomed to this climate but I think both squads would accept time outs."

Italy was upset that time outs were not invoked during the England game in Manaus, although FIFA explained that the heat level wasn't high enough to warrant breaks.

The Italians combatted the heat in Amazon jungle city by relying on a high-percentage passing strategy and minimal running. Expect more of the same against Costa Rica, which also boasts PSV Eindhoven forward Bryan Ruiz at playmaker.

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"Their forwards are very agile and physical like England's," De Rossi said. "We need to play a similar match to the one we played against England. They know how to defend in one unit and they have quality up front, especially at centre forward."

Indeed, Costa Rica conceded just seven goals in 10 matches of the final CONCACAF qualifying phase.

It's only the second meeting between Italy and Costa Rica, with the Azzurri having won a friendly 1-0 before the 1994 World Cup. But helped by Costa Rica's performance against Uruguay, Italy is studying its next opponent attentively.

- AP

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