5 Things for Italy Fans to Look Forward to in the Wake of the Win vs. England
Italy took on England on Saturday night, recording a 2-1 victory which puts them in great position in Group D. The Azzurri took three points despite the absence of key figures, most notably goalkeeper Gigi Buffon.
Even without their injured captain, Cesare Prandelli's men often looked dangerous in Manaus. Here are five things that should make this World Cup even better for Italian supporters.
1. An Easier Opponent
Costa Rica recorded a memorable upset on Saturday, notching a 3-1 victory over Uruguay. That opening game makes Group D interesting, but Italy should still face an easier encounter with them on Friday.
Despite possessing some talented players, the Central American side should be a far simpler opponent for the Azzurri.
2. The Return of Gigi Buffon
Despite Salvatore Sirigu playing quite well, there can be no greater boost for Italy than knowing they will have their inspirational leader back very soon. After missing the England game with an injured ankle, Gigi Buffon is expected to be back in action before the end of the Group Stage.
The Azzurri captain's sister told RAI Radio (h/t FootballItalia) that the goalkeeper would "get away with a few days of treatment." Having the Juventus stopper back in the side is certainly something for fans of Italy to look forward to.
3. An Inspired Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli has been heavily criticised this season, despite taking his goal tally for Milan to 30 in just 54 appearances for the struggling San Siro side. The striker's best form seems to come in the Azzurri shirt, and making such a good start to this World Cup should only see that trend continue.
As at Euro 2012, where the 23-year-old also shone, the influence of Cesare Prandelli is all too clear upon the former Manchester City star. With a winning goal against England to his name already, Balotelli could well lift Italy into the latter stages of this competition too.
4. Respect from English Media
“Italy are a good team," Steven Gerrard told reporters at full time on Saturday (h/t Guardian Sport) and the UK press seem to agree. While positive about the play of their own team, the English media have paid tribute to the Azzurri performance too, something their own fans will enjoy reading.
Comments found in Sunday's papers were almost reverential, with Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph saying England were "ruthlessly exposed by the peerless one: Andrea Pirlo."
5. England vs. Uruguay
With both England and Uruguay losing their opening game, their meeting on Thursday is now one Italy fans can enjoy. A victory for either side is certain to eliminate the losing team, easing qualification for the Azzurri in the process.
With their match against Costa Rica not played until the following day, Cesare Prandelli's squad could well be able to qualify for the last 16 with a positive result in this matchup.