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Uruguay in must-win situation

World Cup News and Notes

By Ian Palmer

With Group C of the World Cup consisting of three former World Cup winners in England, Uruguay, and Italy, along with Central American minnows Costa Rica, most experts pegged Costa Rica to lose all three games. However, not only has Costa Rica beaten both Uruguay 3-1 and Italy 1-0, they’ve already qualified for the second round of the tournament at the expense of winless England. Ironically, England could be the only team in the group to beat Costa Rica when they meet June 24.

But with Costa Rica leading the group with six points followed by Italy and Uruguay with three each and then point-less England, it means Costa Rica is guaranteed of finishing in the top two of the group, but could still lose out on first place to Italy or Uruguay. The Italians and Uruguayans both beat England 2-1 and that’s why they’re still alive.

However, the Italian squad has a huge advantage going into the match against Uruguay at the Estádio das Dunas in Natal, since their goal difference is even and Uruguay’s is -1. This means Italy can advance to the second stage with just a draw against their opponents while Uruguay has to win the game. This scenario could cause some trouble for Italy though if they head out onto the pitch to play for the draw instead of a win.

The men to watch in this contest will be Uruguay striker Luiz Suarez and his Italian counterpart Mario Balotelli. Both of them are known to lose their cool during games and are no strangers to yellow and red cards. However, they’re both excellent strikers when they stay focused. Suarez is considered one of the top scorers in the world at the moment and proved his worth by scoring both goals against England. He had arthroscopic knee surgery just a few weeks before the World Cup kicked off though and missed his team’s loss against Costa Rica. Along with Suarez for Uruguay, Italy will need to keep their eye on his striking partner Edinson Cavani.

The Italian side is known for its defensive skill, but they really need to get a lead in this game before they park the bus. Trying to defend from the outset could easily backfire on manager Cesare Prandelli’s men. Neither team has looked very good up to now in the tournament. As well as losing to Costa Rica they were both outplayed by England even though they managed to squeak out wins. England had a big edge in possession against Italy and Uruguay and outshot them both.

One of Italy’s biggest problems against Costa Rica was being caught offside and their second was a lack of creativity and finishing, especially by Balotelli. The Italians will be relying on aging midfield maestro Andre Pirlo to pull the strings for them against Uruguay and set up his forwards. Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli had poor games against Costa Rica and need to improve. Prandelli may opt to use Leonardo Bonucci in the back four against Uruguay due to his aggressiveness. Italy’s in the driver’s seat going into this game, but Uruguay’s mission certainly isn’t an impossible one.