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Italy turn attention to 'a team to fear'

Cesare Prandelli spoke in Italian but the sentiment expressed will have been understood fluently by natives of Scotland.

Cesare Prandelli is wary of the Costa Rican forwards. Picture: EPA
Cesare Prandelli is wary of the Costa Rican forwards. Picture: EPA

The Italy head coach led his side to victory in their opening Group D match and began his media duties yesterday looking suitably relaxed, his only cause for agitation coming with the suggestion that Costa Rica should pose little threat to his hopes of progression. Prandelli bristled on the spot and does not expect to feel any more comfortable on the sidelines when the sides meet tonight.

He would make himself clear yesterday that the Central Americans are not to be taken lightly at this World Cup. It sounded too like an echo from 1990, and a tournament when Costa Rica sprang a surprise on a team wearing blue. Scotland lost to them in their first game of that tournament.

Italy were given a good view of that - the country hosted the tournament 24 years ago - and there is now a firm conviction in their national team to avoid a similarly sore result. The Italians can secure their place in the next phase with a second straight win and Prandelli has been assiduous in plotting his course out of Group D.

The 56-year-old has acknowledged that goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will be in contention for a start should he prove this morning that he has overcome the injury which sidelined him against England, while Andrea Barzagli has also overcome a minor problem. It was the condition of the Costa Rican attacking triumvirate which has been of greater concern to Prandelli, though.

"We have followed this team with particular interest," said the coach, whose side play their second group match in Recife tonight. "They are very well organised and know their style by heart and their own system.

"It's a team to fear a lot and it's going to be rather difficult. Costa Rica have three players up front that are very strong, so we have to be worried."

It would seem likely that the Costa Ricans have been similarly uneasy about such as Mario Balotelli, who scored decisively against England in their opening match. The striker has not travelled in rude form having struggled in front of goal latterly with AC Milan but a header on Saturday night has proven restorative.

"Costa Rica are a very good side and we must respect them, trying to give 200 per cent on the pitch," said Balotelli. "I have no pressure. I want to go as far as possible in this World Cup and score as many goals as possible but the important thing is that Italy wins and progresses."

Having beaten Uruguay in their opening match, Costa Rica are also in the business of securing a place in the next round. Pinto, the head coach, will still take pleasure from a match against Italy, though.

"This is a dream come true for me because I have watched them play in at least 30 World Cup games," he said. "I've always said that I love how Italy play, their tactical structure, their style. I know I will benefit from having watched them for so long.

"They are a balanced and structured team. We know that Italy are a great rival that has a lot of virtues. We have worked hard, not just this week but for some time now to try to guess their plan and win."

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