mercoledì 18 giugno 2014

Soccer: Italy eye early passage against Costa Rica

Buffon expected to return for second Group D match

(ANSA) - Rome, June 18 - Italy are looking to close in on a place in the knockout round of the World Cup in Brazil on Friday when they face Costa Rica in their second Group D game. The Azzurri are upbeat after their impressive 2-1 win over England on Saturday, a performance that led former national-team coach Marcello Lippi to say he could see the same spirit that his squad had on the way to winning the 2006 World Cup.

Victory over Costa Rica in Recife will secure Italy's passage for the next round with one game to spare if Uruguay fail to beat England on Wednesday. If Uruguay, who lost 3-1 to Costa Rica on their opener, do beat England, Cesare Prandelli's men would need a draw in their final game - against Uruguay in Natal next Tuesday - to be certain of progressing. "I hope we'll go through to the next round with the match against Costa Rica," Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi said. "Uruguay and England play the day before and the situation will be clear. We'll have the chance to qualify, either mathematically or virtually".

There is optimism that captain-goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will be back for the Costa Rica game. Buffon, 36, has returned to training after missing the England match with an ankle sprain. Even if he doesn't return, the Azzurri should be in good hands anyway with Salvatore Sirigu, who played well in goal against England There is speculation Prandelli may make some changes in defence, the one department that had some wobbly moments against the English.

Gabriel Paletta is expected to be dropped at centre back. Pundits expect Prandelli to replace him with Leonardo Bonucci or reorganise the backline, shifting Giorgio Chiellini across from left back, bringing Ignazio Abate in at right back and moving Matteo Darmian from the right flank to the left. Left back Mattia De Sciglio, who missed the England match with a thigh-muscle problem, looks likely to stay on the sidelines. The boss is also thought to be considering resting midfielder Marco Verratti, who missed several days of training last week with flu, and selecting Thiago Motta in his place. 

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