Having recorded a win in their respective opening Group D fixtures, both Italy and Costa Rica know that a positive result on Friday will put them in pole position for a place in the knockout stages.
The latter’s emphatic victory over Uruguay was perhaps the surprise of the tournament so far, and the Azzurri know that they will have to produce another sound performance against the Central American side.
After being thoroughly tested by England last Saturday, Cesare Prandelli’s men took three extremely hard-earned points with a display that should fill them with confidence in the matches ahead. That boost will be needed against a Costa Rica side who can be a highly frustrating opponent, and one who are unlikely to be underestimated after their impressive first outing.
Over the following pages are three key matchups that will shape this meeting in Recife—the head-to-head battles that should be watched closely as the action unfolds.