When the World Cup groups were drawn back in December, Group D immediately caught the eye. The trio of Italy, Uruguay and England looked set to be battling it out for the two qualifying spots, with Costa Rica almost certainly set to assume the role as whipping boys.
But it hasn’t worked out like that.
It’s the supposed minnows who have stunned both Italy and Uruguay in their two games so far, and they’ve already guaranteed their place in the last 16. By contrast, the Three Lions lost both of their fixtures to Los Ticos’ vanquished opponents, and they’ll be heading home.
Those results leave us with an enticing final group game, as the Azzurri and La Celeste are set to battle it out for a spot in the last 16 in what is essentially a winner-takes-all contest. And with the likes of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Mario Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo all set to feature, fireworks and footballing mastery are surely inevitable.
To ensure you’re completely clued up ahead of the clash, here’s all the details on the form of Uruguay and Italy ahead of this one, as well as all the details you need on where to catch the contest via an online stream.
Form Guide: Italy (DDWWL), Uruguay (DWWLW)
The Liverpool forward returned to the side after undergoing knee surgery only a month ago. He was short of his irresistible best but was able to make two decisive contributions against Roy Hodgson’s side. Suarez is a player the Italians must pay close attention to.
The Liverpool forward will be even sharper after getting some minutes under his belt and the training he’s done in the subsequent days; if he shines, it’s difficult to see the Azzurri defence—who were pulled about by Costa Rica—being able to cope with him and his strike partner Cavani.
To make matters worse for the Italians, they look set to be without key midfielder Daniele De Rossi for the match, too, as noted here by the Azzurri Twitter account:
Italy team doctor Enrico Castellacci says it is very improbable that De Rossi will play v Uruguay, however De Sciglio fully fit.— Azzurri (@ItalianNT) June 21, 2014
But if Italy can starve Uruguay of the ball, Suarez could be left to feed off scraps. In Pirlo and Marco Verratti, Italy have two wonderful ball players, and that should see Italy dictate possession against a Uruguay midfield that is founded on tenacity over technique.
Former Uruguay international Alvaro Recoba has insisted that his compatriots must keep tight on Pirlo ahead of this one, as noted here by JuveFC.com:
Recoba on marking Pirlo #ItalyVsUruguay: “Pirlo should be followed all the way to the changing rooms and then even into the bathroom."— Juvefc.com (@juvefcdotcom) June 23, 2014
If Italy can dictate the tempo of the game courtesy of Pirlo's incomparable playmaking abilities, they must make it count for more than they did last time out. Against Costa Rica, the Italians were unable to find a way through their cohesive opponents, so they must show a lot more guile when they get on the ball in dangerous areas of the pitch.
A draw would be enough for Italy to progress, and that should see Cesare Prandelli adopt a safety-first setup, especially with De Rossi missing. But with Suarez clearly in scintillating goalscoring form, that could be a dangerous ploy.
Rory Smith of The Times explains the permutations ahead of this match here:
One thing this does mean is that Uruguay against Italy will be a hell of a game. Italians need a draw. Uruguay have to win. Delicious.— Rory Smith (@RorySmithTimes) June 20, 2014
Expect Uruguay to bounce into this one and get the win needed to progress. Under Tabarez, they’re a team that has become well acquainted with securing big results when required, and the hunger they showcased against England should shine through once again as they look to make it out of the group stages.
Who will win this one?
If Uruguay can beat Italy and progress, they could be a dark horse for this title. A win against Italy would probably set up an all-South American match against Colombia in the next round—opponents that Tabarez’s team know well and would certainly fancy their chances against.
With Suarez regaining fitness game by game and with the experience of their semi-final run from four years ago—not to mention their Copa America win in 2011—this team has the capability to score goals, fight for their lives and when needed, use that little bit of know-how to get them through. It’ll take a very determined and very capable side to dump Suarez and Uruguay out of this competition.