Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
Two of the world’s best forwards battle ahead of a crucial final group stage match between Italy and Uruguay.
Luis Suarez and La Celeste take on Mario Balotelli and the Azzuri at the Arena Das Dunas in the brutal midday heat of Natal. (12 p.m. ESPN). Thanks to previous results, Tuesday’s match is a must-win game for both sides if they want to secure a place in the knockout rounds.
Italy, who have played each of their two previous games in hot and humid conditions in northern Brazil, now have the challenge of recovering after being out-run and out-worked by Costa Rica in a 1-0 defeat. Italy’s possession style might play well into Uruguay’s hands, who love to sit back and counter with Edinson Cavani and Suarez. Suarez scored twice against England after coming back from knee surgery and will be constantly getting under the three-man backline of Italy.
Italy need only a draw to advance out of Group D but Uruguay need a win to keep their World Cup dreams alive.
Here are some more notes on today’s World Cup action:
IVORY COAST vs. GREECE
The Ivory Coast could make history on Tuesday afternoon with a win over Greece at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza (4 p.m. ESPN 2).
The Elephants have never made it out of the group stage in their nation’s World Cup history but with a win or draw against Greece and a Colombia win or draw against Japan, the Ivory Coast could advance to the next round.
Kolo and Yaya Toure are both playing with a heavy heart after the death of their brother Ibrahim, and Ivory Coast head coach Sabri Lamouchi has asked for the team to send a positive message back to their country. Right back Serge Aurier will be vital for the team when he storms forward and curls in crosses, as well as Gervinho creating in the attack.
Greece, who have yet to score a goal at the World Cup yet, will need to find goals from Kostas Mitroglu or Giorgio Samaras and earn a big win, as well as a loss from Japan to ensure progression into the next round.
COSTA RICA vs. ENGLAND
With their World Cup dreams over for the time being, England manager Roy Hodgson has selected a youthful side to take on Costa Rica in their final match of Group D at the EstadioMineirão in Belo Horizonte (12 p.m. ESPN2).
Frank Lampard will captain the side for likely the final time in his long England career, while Luke Shaw, Ben Foster, Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Chris Smalling, and Adam Lallana all move in to the starting lineup. England will try and use their pace on the wings and play triangles with Daniel Sturridge up top, though Costa Rica’s five-man back line could give the Three Lions some problems.
Costa Rica have already secured a place in the next round and could rest a few of their starters heading into the England match. It will be interesting to see how England cope with the high pressure of Costa Rica and how well Los Ticos do in their counter attacking.
As we saw against Italy, all Costa Rica needs is one chance to score.
JAPAN vs. COLOMBIA
Japan head into their final group stage match needing a win against already-qualified Colombia at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba (4 p.m. ESPN).
Head coach Alberto Zaccheroni is looking from a spark from his Japanese side that have wilted in the second half of matches against the Ivory Coast and Greece, failing to take advantage of enough of their early chances to put games away.
Against Colombia, Japan should enjoy enough of the ball and will want to try and play balls through the Cafeteros back line, which includes the 38-year-old Mario Yepes, who is much slower than he used to be. For Colombia, it may be a chance to give Yepes a rest, with young star in the making Eder Alvarez Balanta expected to take Yepes’ place.
Juan Fernando Quintero could also start from the onset, giving James Rodriguez a rest ahead of the Round of 16.
What do you think of today’s World Cup slate? Do you see Uruguay or Italy making it into the next round? Think that the Ivory Coast can make history?
Share your thoughts below.