It's a winner-takes-all clash in Natal, where Italy take on Uruguay with a second round place at stake. Italian football expert Paolo Bandini goes head-to-head with South American football authority Tim Vickery for what should be a classic contest.
Paolo Bandini on Italy: An unexpected defeat to Costa Rica has prompted some serious self-examination in the Italy camp, and resulted in a wholesale change of approach. Cesare Prandelli is expected to abandon the four-man defence he used in the Azzurri’s first two games, switching instead to a 3-5-2 with Mario Balotelli and Ciro Immobile up front. The manager’s biggest headache will be trying to replace Daniele De Rossi, who is unlikely to recover from a calf injury in time for Tuesday’s game.
Tim Vickery on Uruguay: It was assumed that right back Maxi Pereira would come back into the side after serving a suspension for the red card he picked up against Costa Rica. But it seems that coach Oscar Washington Tabarez is inclined to select the same line up that saved themselves by beating England – which means another outing for teenage centre back Jose Maria Gimenez, who deputised efficiently for captain Diego Lugano, yet to recover from a knee injury. Perhaps part of the logic behind this is that, now switched to right back, Martin Caceres is more defensively minded and thus able to give Gimenez a hand.
Paolo Bandini: After a solid win over England, Italy were abject against Costa Rica, lacking both energy and ideas. Balotelli made a mess of his team’s only real chance, and all eyes will be on his new partnership with Immobile – not least because Prandelli had previously suggested that the pair were not well suited to playing alongside one another up front. But by switching formation, Prandelli can at least rely on the Juventus combination of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci in front of Gigi Buffon at the back. That group ended the season in fine form at club level – with six clean sheets in their last seven Serie A games.
Tim Vickery: Predictably, Uruguay raised their game against England – both because the death-or glory occasion consistently brings the best out of this side, and also because the cool of Sao Paulo was far more to their liking than the heat of Fortaleza. The worrying aspect to this next game, then, is that Uruguay are back in the heat of the North East, this time facing the challenge of a 1pm local time kick off in Natal – an hour at which no big domestic game would conceivably take place. It was noticeable that Uruguay ran out of gas in the second half at Fortaleza, casting doubt on the wisdom of their option to prepare for the tournament at home, where it is currently bitterly cold. The big question mark against their form, then, is this; against a side that loves to pass the ball around, can Uruguay reproduce the intensity of their display against England in much more difficult conditions?
WHAT THE MANAGER SAYS
Italy’s Cesare Prandelli: “We need to shed any negative thoughts and focus on recuperating our energies – both physical and mental … We played a very even game against Uruguay at the Confederations Cup last year. This could be more of the same.”
Uruguay’s Oscar Washington Tabarez: “The pressure was worse against England. Do you think it was like going for a stroll in the shopping centre? Of course we’re under pressure, because of three possible results only one is any good to us. But we won’t be entering in despair. This group is used to dealing with pressure and responding well.”
Interestingly, he also added that Luis Suarez had told him that England would bring on Rickie Lambert, and that they had big centre back Sebastian Coates ready for this eventuality.
Paolo Bandini: Italians are hoping for a Toto Schillaci-like impact from Immobile, who has played just three official games for the national team so far, but scored a hat-trick during the unofficial warm-up game against Fluminense. Containing Suarez and Edinson Cavani for 90 minutes is a big ask, so goals at the other end will almost certainly be required if the Azzurri are to get the result they need from this game.
Tim Vickery: The match winning return of Suarez makes his importance a given. Key to this game might well be Gimenez, who is bound to be tested by the power of Mario Balotelli. A star of last year’s World Under-20 Cup, Gimenez was thrown into the deep end last September, when a centre-back crisis forced his selection against Colombia. So well did he perform in a 2-0 win that he had a tattoo done to celebrate the date of the match. He kept Radamel Falcao Garcia quiet that day. Can he now do the same against Balotelli?
Paolo Bandini: Well, my honest advice would be to back Luis Suarez to score at 2.48, but since my role here is to represent the Italian angle how about a bolder bet on Andrea Pirlo, at 9.00, to do the same? After all, this could be the Juventus midfielder’s last-ever international game.
Tim Vickery: A draw at 3.20. Uruguay to strain every sinew, but in the conditions they might not have enough to grab the win.
Paolo Bandini: Italy 1-2 Uruguay at 11.00. Unfortunately.
Tim Vickery: Italy 1 Uruguay 1 at 6.40.
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