Day 3 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup is highlighted by the Group D battle between England and Italy. That's a rematch of the Euro 2012 quarter-final, won on penalties by the Italians.
But that game isn't the only noteworthy match on the tournament's third day. Both Uruguay and Colombia, two potential dark-horse candidates, will be in action for the first time.
Finally, expect excitement and goals in the late show between Ivory Coast and Japan. Each Group C team has enough attacking quality and intent to cause the others serious headaches.
Here's the full schedule information for each game, including kickoff times and all the relevant television details:
|Colombia vs. Greece||5 p.m. (BST)/12 p.m. (ET)||BBC One/ABC||BBC iPlayer/ESPN3.com|
|Uruguay vs. Costa Rica||8 p.m. (BST)/3 p.m. (ET)||ITV/ABC||ITV Player/ ESPN3.com|
|England vs. Italy||11p.m. (BST)/6 p.m. (ET)||BBC One/ESPN||BBC iPlayer/ESPN3.com|
|Ivory Coast vs. Japan||2 a.m. (BST)/9 p.m. (ET)||ITV/ESPN||ITV Player/ESPN3.com|
FIFA.com and FanSided.com
That's how the schedule breaks down. Now here's a brief look at the key players for each match, beginning with the marquee game:
England vs. Italy: Wayne Rooney and Andrea Pirlo
When Italy outlasted England at Euro 2012, patient playmaker Andrea Pirlo was viewed as a major reason why. The Juventus veteran controlled the flow and pace of possession throughout the game.
If he can do the same again, the 35-year-old will be able to maximize some dangerous attacking talent. Strikers Mario Balotelli and Ciro Immobile, along with wide forwards Lorenzo Insigne and Alessio Cerci, could cause England major problems.
Of course, manager Cesare Prandelli is unlikely to use every member of this quartet, but the foursome highlights Italy's strength in depth up front.
England must cut off the supply lines, and that means stifling Pirlo. Coach Roy Hodgson has stated to Italian media he knows how his team will corral Pirlo this time, according to Sam Wallace of The Independent:
What are we going to do this time against Pirlo? First, we’ll play a lot better, we’ll play with more energy because we’ll have more energy because it will be the first game in the tournament. We’ll be even more compact than we were in that game.
We’re going to make certain also that Italy have a lot more to concern themselves with our attacking play, because one of the problems we had in that game is that we weren’t functioning well as an attacking unit. So Italy had too much of the ball and we were doing too much defending.
Hodgson's plan to use attack as the best form of defence will rely a lot on the form of Wayne Rooney. The perpetually disgruntled forward has been the brunt of criticism lately.
Former Manchester United teammate Paul Scholes has criticised Rooney's recent form, per Paddy Power. Meanwhile, Rooney has also had to contend with Hodgson shifting him out of position.
Rooney has been pushed onto the left flank for recent England matches. It's not a role he has relished during his career.
But if Rooney's at his best, the Italians will be in trouble, no matter where he plays.
Uruguay vs. Costa Rica: Edinson Cavani and Joel Campbell
It will be all about the strikers when Uruguay take on Costa Rica. The former can call on prolific powerhouse Edinson Cavani.
A major threat in the air, Cavani is also deceptively quick. He can drag defenders wide, as well as dart behind a back line to latch onto through passes.
Expect Cavani to cause the Costa Ricans a ton of problems.
If they hope to return the favour, Costa Rica will rely on young Arsenal wide forward Joel Campbell. He has been in thrilling form on loan at Greek side Olympiakos this season.
Lightning fast and highly skilled, Campbell is dangerous whenever he drifts off a flank and cuts inside. Once in those areas, the 21-year-old possesses a fierce shot with either foot.
Ivory Coast vs. Japan: Didier Drogba and Keisuke Honda
He's been around a while, but time hasn't diminished Didier Drogba's match-winning quality. The bullish striker is still the main man for the Ivory Coast.
Drogba will seek to use his tremendous natural power against a less-than-physically-imposing Japan defence. Drogba can still terrorize defenders in the air and has lost none of his composure when the pressure is on.
If Japan want to apply their own pressure to the Ivory Coast back four, they'll need Keisuke Honda to produce some magic. He is certainly capable of changing the momentum of a game in an instant.
The AC Milan attacking midfielder isn't afraid to trust his awesome shooting power. Honda is also a clever passer who can split defensive gaps.
Technical quality in the final third is the strength of this Japan squad. Honda, along with Manchester United schemer Shinji Kagawa, is responsible for most of the flair and creativity.
The hub of the side, instead, is Honda, whose demanding attitude, composure, and consistency – at least in a Japan shirt – makes him the ideal orchestrator for their fast, fluid attacking play.
Increasingly, over the past couple of years, Honda adopts a slightly withdrawn starting position to link more effectively with the two volante – Japanese imports its word for deep-lying or defensive midfielders from Brazil – while Kagawa and the third attacking midfielder move inside to offer short, triangular passes.
If Honda and Kagawa combine well, the Ivorians will struggle to cope.
Colombia vs. Greece: Carlos Bacca and Konstantinos Mitroglou
Strikers will also be the key figures for the Group C match between Colombia and Greece. The latter need Konstantinos Mitroglou to provide a stout but dour team with its attacking edge.
Mitroglou didn't do much this season, as injuries kept him off the field for both Olympiakos and Fulham. But the strong and mobile 26-year-old is an opportunist in the box and an excellent finisher.
If the Greeks show enough forward initiative to provide him with chances, Mitroglou is certainly talented enough to take them.
Speaking of taking chances, that's just what Carlos Bacca can do. The lively 27-year-old Sevilla striker can manufacture opportunities through his relentless pursuit of the ball.
Bacca is a pest for defenders to cope with. His pace, tenacity and trickery often force mistakes at the back. Those guilty usually see their errors punished by quality finishing.
Day 3 will likely see teams like Colombia and Uruguay make bold early statements of intent in their respective groups. While England and Italy can be expected to target their main points elsewhere, Japan and Ivory Coast should provide the most entertainment.