After missing the opening win over England, the Juventus shot-stopper is set to return to help Cesare Prandelli's men pursue a spot in the last 16. Italy are hopeful of having Gianluigi Buffon back for their crunch Group D meeting with Costa Rica on Friday, with both sides looking for a victory which could ensure their passage to the last 16 of the World Cup. Buffon picked up a slight ankle strain during training ahead of the Azzurri’s opener with England in Manaus and, despite Cesare Prandelli initially playing down the injury, the Juventus keeper was ruled out of the 2-1 victory.
Salvatore Sirigu deputised and did well, although there were uncertain moments at corners, and Prandelli is hoping to have his No.1 available for selection despite not knowing the extent of the problem. The coach also praised Matteo Darmian’s impact at right-back, so the Torino man is expected to retain his place in a four-man defence, while Marco Verratti should also start after being taken off against England because of a virus.
Costa Rica also got off to an excellent start earlier on Saturday, roaring back from a goal down to beat Uruguay 3-1. It was the first time los Ticos had scored more than twice in a World Cup match in 11 attempts, and they came from just four shots on target, all of which were in the second half. It was also the first time they had ever beaten Uruguay, at their ninth attempt, and they did it with five at the back and four midfielders. It is unlikely they will be more adventurous against Italy, who recorded the highest pass completion rate (93.2 per cent) of any team at a World Cup since 1966. The midfield were key to that, with Andrea Pirlo racking up the most individual passes of the 2014 tournament to date against England – 108, with only five missing their target. Ninety-nine of Daniele De Rossi’s 105 passes found a team-mate, too.
This is Italy and Costa Rica's first World Cup encounter.
Their only previous meeting was in a friendly on 11 June 1994 at New Haven in the United States before that year's World Cup. Italy won 1-0 thanks to a goal by Giuseppe Signori.
Costa Rica have scored in each of their six World Cup games against teams from the UEFA confederation.
Italy's pass completion of 93% vs England is the highest rate ever recorded in a World Cup game (1966-2014).
Italy have scored in their last 15 World Cup games, a record run for them and the best current run of any side.
Andrea Pirlo made 108 passes in Italy's first game but 59 of them were in his own half.
Other than Mexico and the USA, no CONCACAF team has ever won consecutive games at the World Cup.
Italy have not won their second game at a World Cup in any of the last three editions. (Drawn-2 Lost-1).
If England and Uruguay draw then a win for either side will see them through to the Round of 16.