There may be little left for England fans but to clutch at straws. However, Italy are certainly capable of beating Costa Rica and Uruguay to keep the Three Lions in the tournament.
Roy Hodgson’s World Cup hopes now rest almost entirely on Cesare Prandelli’s men after a Luis Suarez master class left them teetering on the brink of a first group stage elimination since 1958.
Should the Azzurri fulfil their part of the deal and win their remaining games, England must still beat Costa Rica with sufficient goal difference to secure second place in Group D. That, in itself, is far from a foregone conclusion, but Italy have the strength to go unbeaten and power through to the last 16.
Andrea Pirlo will undoubtedly be one of their key men; he gave the world just a glimpse of his talent with a mesmerising free kick that hit the crossbar in the 2-1 victory over England.
Indeed, what England have so painfully lacked, Italy possess: their defence looks reasonably sound, and they have firepower up front in Mario Balotelli and Ciro Immobile, the latter of whom scored a hat trick in a recent warm-up match against Brazilian club giants Fluminense.
Costa Rica have been hailed as one of the surprise packages of the tournament so far, though that is based largely on their first game, an impressive 3-1 win over Uruguay. Yet, Uruguay did not look their best and had evidently worked on defending set pieces before the England game. Costa Rica will therefore come up against tougher opposition in Italy.
Prandelli will be taking nothing for granted, though, and will also be keen to learn some harsh lessons learned by England against Uruguay. The likes of Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling should know the perils of allowing Suarez too much space better than anyone, and although the Liverpool hit man is close to unstoppable, Italy will have a far better chance than England did against him if they are quick in closing him down.
In fact, last night’s game made particularly interesting viewing, as to look past Suarez, there was not a great deal between the two sides. Rooney’s tap-in – and first ever World Cup goal – will not quite have put his critics to bed, and generally, England’s performance was quite frankly not worthy of qualification. Nonetheless, Uruguay were hugely reliant on Suarez, and if, by force and sheer will power, he can be tamed, Italy have the beating of them.
Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson has been forced to declare he has no intention of resigning in spite of what many fear to be the inevitable. When all else has failed, England still have hope, but their suitcases must already be packed. If they had picked a side in the group to do them favours at the outset, it would have been Italy, though there is now absolutely no margin for error
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