The final set of FIFA World Cup 2014 group games is upon us—where on earth did the time go?
Here, we analyse Italy vs. Uruguay: A clash in which either can progress to the knockout stages as long as they play it right.
Italy did superbly to grind a victory out of England and made all the right tactical noises against Costa Rica.
They can consider themselves ridiculously unlucky to have lost to the Ticos—all their forwards had to do was stay onside just once, after all—but must now grab at least a draw against Uruguay to progress.
Cesare Prandelli is expected to revert to a 3-5-2 formation that has served him so well in the past, with Ciro Immobile partnering Mario Balotelli, Mattia De Sciglio coming in at left-wing-back and Leonardo Bonucci entering the defensive line.
Alternatively he could go 3-4-3, with Claudio Marchisio off the left, Antonio Candreva off the right and Balotelli leading the line solo. Alessio Cerci is in with a shout.
Daniele De Rossi will miss the clash due to injury, per Football Italia.
Luis Suarez rescued Uruguay's qualification hopes by returning to the starting XI and netting two goals to beat England in Sao Paulo last week.
He'll be retained alongside Edinson Cavani up front by Oscar Tabarez, completing one of the deadliest striking duos in the competition.
As per B/R's Nick Dorrington, Tabarez seems likely to field an unchanged side to face the Azzurri, with Alvaro Pereira coming in at left-back again despite playing concussed vs. England
Such is la Celeste's strength, even the unflappable Andrea Pirlo has admitted he's feeling the heat against such stern opposition:
"This match is comparable to a semi-final or a final and we are either in or we are out," he told The Mirror. "We feel the same tension and enthusiasm as we would in those situations."
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Pack the Middle
Uruguay have used a flat 4-4-2 and a 4-3-1-2-esque shape so far, with the latter more likely to be retained than the former against the Azzurri.
Space between la Celeste's lines was easy to find in the flat version, whereas packing the middle made it tough for England to initiate a passing game from deep.
You can bet Italy will try to control the central zones, too—they usually use it as a spring-board for dominance—so whoever wins the battle can turn the tide. If Italy are in a 3-5-2 they'll be outnumbered.
2. Cavani on Pirlo
Against England, Cavani sat on Steven Gerrard to disrupt the flow to his game.
The Three Lions failed to reciprocate and return the tactic on the masterful Pirlo, though, instead leaving him free to receive and make passes that split the lines.
Tabarez is not that naive and will likely ask Cavani to keep tabs on the regista, with the successes of man-marking elsewhere in this World Cup—namely Wesley Sneijder on Marcelo Diaz and Egidio Rios on Wayne Rooney—obvious encouragement.
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