After their incredible 3-1 over Uruguay last Saturday, Costa Rica are scheduled to play Italy in their next World Cup game in Recife. The Costa Ricans will be confident and on a high heading into the game after their last result and all the acclaim that followed for them. Playing Italy, however, will prove a nightmare for Costa Rica and it is one of the worst matchups they could face.
Italy also won their first game of the group with a 2-1 over England in Manaus. During that game, Italy recorded a 93.2 percent pass completion rate, which is the highest completion rate on record since the 1966 tournament in England. Italy, with players like Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, Marco Verratti, Claudio Marchisio and Thiago Motta all vying for places in their midfield, were already expected to be highly adept at maintaining possession, and now, that is more certain than ever.
And that is where the problem lies for Costa Rica. Firstly, getting the ball, and then secondly, being able to get enough of it to hurt Italy. Costa Rica have some quick players in attack, especially with the dynamic Joel Campbell, but they’re not going to get as much space to exploit against Italy as Uruguay handed them in their first game.
In this game, Costa Rica will do more running without the ball than they’ll do with it. It will be tiresome labor, and when Italy do turn the ball over they will seldom over commit to an attack and leave Costa Rica with the space they desire. Without that space — and the ball — it will be very difficult for Costa Rica to hurt the Azzurri and will likely only be a matter of time before Italy open them up and score themselves.
It’s a difficult matchup for the Costa Ricans and one they will likely lose, but it’s not all bad news; far from it actually, as they will have more opportunities in their final group game against England. That game may well be a straight shootout between the two to advance to the next round, and before this World Cup began, that is a position that Costa Rica could have only dreamed of being in.