Before the World Cup began, nobody would have quite predicted that minnows Costa Rica would be on top of Group D with one game to go – as opposed to opinion that England would crash out of the group stages with one game to spare. This leaves the other two teams, Italy and Uruguay, to face off in a winner-takes-all game which will see one of these two big teams eliminated from the World Cup.
Both teams are at 3 points, but a draw will suffice for Italy, owing to their superior goal difference. Uruguay, on the other hand, need a win to ensure qualification to the knockout stages. Uruguay talisman Luis Suarez is back and seems to be fully fit, which will be a cause of worry for the Italian defense. Partnering him will be Cavani, who is more than capable of causing damage to any side if given the space and time.
Uruguay will pretty much lineup with the same players that were victorious over England. Óscar Tabárez knows how to bring the best out of his men, and looking at the average age of the team, they may well play will a deep defensive block. Playing with a high line could expose their defense to long balls played over the top. When you’re up against someone like Pirlo, you want to make sure this does not happen.
However, it is unclear whether they will persist with a diamond in midfield, especially if Italy are going to shift to a 3-5-2. While this would provide Uruguay with numbers in midfield, their full-backs would be completely exposed to Italy’s marauding wingbacks. Tabárez has to make a call here. Meanwhile, Godin will have to bring his club form for Atletico to the field today, if Uruguay intend to keep Balotelli quiet.
Meanwhile, news has come from the Azzuri camp that Prandelli may well revert to a 3-5-2 formation for the final game. Personally, I don’t understand why Italy has been playing with a back four for the major part of the last two years. The 3-5-2 is where they are the most effective. They caused Spain all sorts of problems when the two sides met earlier this year.
Chiellini hasn’t been impressive at left-back, seeing how he is a natural center-back. This was visible against England, as Italy concentrated all their attacks from the wing on the right, where Matteo Darmian put in an impressive shift. Today, the onus is going to be on Darmian, and the recently fit De Sciglio to help the team in attack and defense.
With De Rossi out due to injury, we will see Verrati and Motta alongside the bearded maestro, Pirlo. Uruguay will have to find a way to limit Pirlo’s influence on the game, or else they are going to be in for an arduous 90 minutes. In attack, it will surely be Immobile who will partner Balotelli. Their contrasting styles of play could very well work in Italy’s favour, as they will need to link up to get past the Uruguay defense. When playing up front as a lone striker, Balotelli has cut a solitary figure, with the midfield not really connecting well with attack, barring wing-play.
Italy cannot afford to switch off today like they did against Costa Rica. While a draw will see them through, they should take advantage of the fact that Uruguay will go all out today, seeing how they need all three points to go through. This is going to be one exciting game for sure.