Costa Rica will surely have their tails up when they take on Italy. After all, they dealt a stunning blow to fancied Uruguay last Saturday. But I can't see them repeating their heroics against the Azzurri.
To catch the Italians by surprise is a tricky challenge, especially with the shrewd Cesare Prandelli around. The Italy coach has this knack of deceiving his adversaries. I remember how Prandelli caught Spain off guard in their opening match at Euro 2012. He employed three players at the back and packed his midfield with five men. It caused the Spanish plenty of discomfort, and the game finished 1-1. In the final, against the same opponents, he played four at the back. But his ploy failed to thwart the inspired Spaniards side who were simply too ruthless on the night.
Last week, Prandelli again kept England guessing, eventually going with a 4-1-4-1 system with Andrea Pirlo and the young Marco Verratti operating as double playmakers while Mario Balotelli was fielded as a lone striker with support from Antonio Candreva. I wasn't too impressed with Giorgio Chiellini in their back four but, overall, the system again proved effective enough for Italy to get those three points.
Prandelli is a fan of tactical adaptation. So, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he sets up his side differently against Costa Rica. What we do know is Pirlo will always be at the centre of Italy's attacking strategy. If Jorge Luis Pinto, the Costa Rica coach, is considering the idea of man-marking the imperious Juventus midfielder, then good luck to him. Germany tried that approach in the semifinal of the 2012 Euro and discovered it was easier said than done. What Pirlo is so good at doing if he's crowded for room is dropping deep and then releasing his trademark pinpoint passes. He might lack the speed or the desire to run hard, yet he has some qualities which make him irreplaceable in this Italian side. It should be an interesting tactical battle in Recife.
I'm also looking forward to the France-Switzerland game in Salvador. The defence will be the key in this one, though both sides wouldn't mind a draw.