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World Cup: Italy out to prove a point

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For some England fans it looked too good to be true, with an Italian victory over minnows Costa Rica ensuring that the Three Lions chances of reaching the knock-out rounds were kept alive.

However, it was always going to end in tears for the English contingency who have seen their team fall short of expectations more than a dozen times at international tournaments.

Whilst British Saturday broadsheets and tabloids are carefully dissecting every single thing that went wrong with England, from Wayne Rooney’s fitness, to Roy Hodgson’s team selection’s, and to the heat, their Italian counterparts were taking the term critical to a whole new level.

One Italian back-page shouted out, “Why always us?” Whilst another separated the whole team into players that were very bad, bad and sub-standard.

PIRLO

For those of you who are wondering midfield wizard Andrea Pirlo made the third category whilst “why always me” Mario Balotelli made the first for his less than satisfactory performance against the Central American outfit.

This is a far cry from the inside pages of La Gazzetta Dello Sport, a specialised Italian sports publication which hailed the current Italian team as the next World Cup winning generation.

The Azzurri’s win against England fuelled public opinion that this team was indeed good enough to tear apart Group C whilst going on to win their fifth consecutive World title in a space of just eight years.

COSTA RICA

Indeed, their humbling to the hands of Costa Rica, who are ranked 38th in the World Rankings and had to rely on beating Jamaica to participate in the finals has caused a stir on a similar level to the Calcipoli, a series of match-fixing inquires which turned Italian football on its head.

When Italy are playing well they are often a hard act to follow, and when they go on one of their winning World Cup runs they are impossible to play against.

For moments on Saturday’s hard-fought 2-1 win over England in the tropics of Manaus, Italy were splendid to the untrained eye with Pirlo masterminding every single Azzurri counterattack, leaving the Three Lions at times exposed at the back.

A sweet long range strike from Juventus’ Claudio Marchisio and a sublime header from Balotelli either side of the half set Italy on course to qualify from the “Group of Death” as the winners.

Despite edging past England, the stats would prove that the Italians were somewhat fortunate to win with Hodgson’s men leading the stats in the number of shots both on and off target, as well as the number of corners.

For a team which looked so fluid, dangerous and solid at the back for vast periods of the encounter against England you would have thought that they would have showed something spectacular against Costa Rica yesterday.

RECORD

Italy’s record against Los Ticos is one won, and lost one, with their surprise defeat now leaving Cesare Prandelli’s one game away from being eliminated, less than a week after their buoyant victory of England.

The Azzurri simply do not play well against smaller teams and it’s quite ironic to mention that they have only been able to beat a team bellow 30 in the FIFA World Rankings once in a space of nine months.

Since battling to secure a 2-1 victory over 34th ranked Czech Republic in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier last September, their record against lower ranked teams is played five, drawn four and lost one.

Coincidently their record against team in the top 20 in the FIFA World Ranking’s doesn't look to good either with the Italians last victory against an equally matched side coming way back in June last year.

The team they beat that day you must ask? Uruguay, via a penalty shootout in the third/fourth play-off game at the 2013 Confederations Cup after the game finished 0-0.

You would imagine that Italy would be more than happy to replicate this score line once again tomorrow, with only a point standing in between Prandelli’s men and a place in the last-16.

In reality, it was somewhat fortunate that Italy were not pitted in a group similar to their South African adventure four earlier which saw the Azzurri finish the group bottom bellow the likes of Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand having only secured two point out of a possible nine.

PRESSURE

The Italians thrive in games which conjure aspects of pressure and tension, and normally always get what they set out to achieve when people are going against them.

Just look at their World Cup winning campaign in 2006, set amongst a backdrop of betting and match fixing allegations and everything that Calciopoli represented.

Yes, you can argue that Italy’s stagnant performance against Costa Rica allied fears of the Azzurri reverting back to their old tricks of blaming each other for their defeat and setting a media inquiry alight, but will it all be worth it.

Unlike England, it is obvious to say that Italy have a very promising future ahead of themselves and just like a tomato ripe to be plucked, will Prandelli use a possible victory against Uruguay to lead his team to a fifth consecutive World Cup title?

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Topics:
Italy Football
Internationals
Mario Balotelli
World Cup
Football

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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