Tired Italy face daunting Uruguayan test

Both sides to battle for second qualifying spot.


Afp June 23, 2014

NATAL:


Four-time champions Italy admitted they are struggling with the weather conditions ahead of their clash with Uruguay in Natal on Tuesday, where they will try to avoid being eliminated in the first round at successive World Cups.


A win for the South Americans would send Cesare Prandelli’s side crashing out at the first hurdle, four years after bowing out at the group stage as then world champions in South Africa.

The Azzurri require just a draw to go through, but after a lifeless display in a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica, captain Gianluigi Buffon hinted that the hot and humid conditions have taken their toll.

“Once we’ve finished training we’ll see what kind of condition we are in,” said Buffon.

“I think a lot of European teams are struggling compared to the Latin Americans.



“But that isn’t an excuse. The climate is the same for all of our opponents.”

If there is belief that Latin Americans sides are coping better than teams from Europe in such a testing climate, Group D is arguably a good indicator.

Costa Rica host England on Tuesday looking for their third consecutive group win, having fought back from a goal down to stun Uruguay 3-1, before outplaying a visibly jaded Italy in Recife on Friday.

Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio said after the defeat, “In the second half we suffered, the heat made it difficult to remain lucid.”

‘Whole of Uruguay believes they can beat us’

Uruguay bounced back from that shock reverse with a far improved performance to beat England 2-1 thanks to a Luis Suarez double.

“They’ve managed to re-launch their campaign by beating England and now the whole of Uruguay believes they can beat us and go through,” added Buffon, who said Italy will have to be wary of Liverpool striker Suarez.

“We know plenty about [striker Edinson] Cavani thanks to his time at Napoli. But we know less about Suarez.

“We need to show some strength and pride and come up with a win. If we end up going out in the first round, it will be a failure.”

With Costa Rica already through and England eliminated by the Italians’ defeat in Recife, Italy and Uruguay – who both have three points – have been left to battle for the second qualifying spot.

Due to an inferior goal difference, Uruguay need a win if they are to have a chance of repeating their exploits of 2010, when current coach Oscar Tabarez steered the 1950 champions to their first semi-finals appearance in 40 years.

Japan look for missing spark against Colombia

Japan will be looking to unlock their attacking potential against already-qualified Colombia on Tuesday but are relying on events elsewhere if they are to reach the World Cup last 16.

Colombia are already assured of a place in the next round after two victories in Group C while Ivory Coast, who meet Greece in Fortaleza on Tuesday, have three points.

Greece and Asian champions Japan have one point apiece, though Greece’s goal difference is inferior.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2014.

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