Italy face Uruguay in a titanic battle for a place in the knockout stages, while England only have pride left to play for as they face Group D leaders Costa Rica on Tuesday.
Japan, who face Group C leaders Columbia, will be hoping for a favour from Greece. In fact Japan not only have to beat Columbia, but will also need Greece to beat Cote D’ivoire if they are to advance. Such unenviable situations seldom bare fruit, but this is the World Cup and hope springs eternal.
The showdown between Italy and Uruguay is certainly the pick of Tuesday’s matches. The Italians have a wonderful cocktail of experience, flair, and defense, and exuberance in youth is not one of their strong suites, but Cesare Prandelli knows how to get the most out of what he’s got.
Following the 2006 World Cup winner’s embarrassing group-stage exit in South Africa in 2010, the Italian faithful will certainly not take kindly to a similar fate for a second successive World Cup campaign. Italian football is in deep enough trouble as it is, given the quality of a number of their stadiums, and yet more match-fixing scandals drawing their game into disrepute. Bear in mind however that following the last Italian match-fixing scandal, they did end up winning the World Cup.
With respect to Uruguay though, you never really know what you’re going to get. Their 3-1 loss to Costa Rica came in Luis Suarez’s absence, and his return against England heralded a vital victory. Of course there is more to the team than just Suarez, but he is undeniably a vital cog in the Uruguayan machine.
Given that Uruguay will enjoy an almost home-ground advantage over Italy and with the raft of star players in their lineup, I’m going with Uruguay to claim a slim 2-1 victory over the wily Italians.
Costa Rica coach, Jorge Luis Pinto stated in an interview that England is the “mother of football” and that they’ve been unlucky in front of goal thus far. Roughly translated, he means to offer England every ounce of respect when the teams face each other later on Tuesday. As stated, England only have pride to play for going into this one, and so may play a less inhibited brand of football than they did against Uruguay last time out.
Roy Hodgson’s side may not leave Brazil with their heads held high regardless of the result, but they will be aiming to salvage what pride they can when the teams clash.
Similar to Uruguay, Costa Rica will enjoy great support from the South American crowd, and will want to send a statement to the rest of the World Cup powerhouses by becoming the second team to claim three wins from as many games. And to achieve such a feat from what was widely termed as ‘The Group of Death’ would undoubtedly send a crystal clear message to the major protagonists.
3-1 to Costa Rica as far as I’m concerned.
Japan face Columbia on Tuesday evening in what is a foregone conclusion, really. Columbia are leading Group C with two wins from as many games and will be loathe to relinquish that record against a poor Japanese outfit.
Three goals to nil in favour of Columbia over ninety minutes of one-way traffic in this one.
Greece have not scored a single goal in this World Cup, and they come up against an Ivory Coast side that performed admirably against Columbia. The Africans also sport a number of star players in their ranks with Yaya Toure, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba to call upon, and though Drogba is ageing – remember that form is temporary and class is permanent. Didier Drogba is class.
I’m not sure if Cote D’ivoire have enough in defense to keep Greece at bay, but I do think they have what it takes to seal victory. I trust The Elephants to claim a comfortable 2-0 victory over Greece in this one.