World Cup 2014: Italy vs. Costa Rica – Experts’ Pick, Predicted Lineup and Injury Report

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By Lou Ramon Aguila | June 20, 2014 2:54 PM EST

Italy and Costa Rica both booked impressive victories in their opener last week. Now, it's time to separate the grain from the chaff as these teams duke it out for a chance to advance into the knockout stages on Friday at Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil.

REUTERS/
England's Wayne Rooney (L) and Italy's Giorgio Chiellini fight for the ball during their 2014 World Cup Group D soccer match at the Amazonia arena in Manaus June 14, 2014.

What's at Stake?

*Costa Rica, coming off a 3-1 stunner against the Luis Suarez-less Uruguay in the opener, looks to keep their Cinderella run going and take a big step towards qualifying into the knockout stages.

*Italy is the hands-down favorite to win Group D, after their 2-1 win over England, who suddenly found themselves on the brink of elimination in the tourney. A win on Friday would erase their nightmarish run in the last edition of the World Cup in Africa, where they failed to qualify into the knockout stages.

Injury and Suspension Report

*Costa Rica will have its key starters from the victory over Uruguay ready for another grind against a very talented Italian squd.

*Italy, on the other hand, is expected to retain the service of veteran goalkeeper Gianlugi Buffon, who missed the game against England with ankle problems. Full-back Mattia De Sciglio is cleared from a leg injury, but might need to rest more before he gets the call to play.

"Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli will have been boosted by the return to training of goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon.

The 36-year-old missed the 2-1 win over England with an ankle problem, but could return against the Costa Ricans. Full-back Mattia De Sciglio is also thought to be nearing a return to action, but the match may come too soon for the AC Milan defender," via John Ley of the Telegraph.  

Predicted Lineup

Italy (Possible, 4-5-1): Buffon; Chiellini, Barzagli, Paletta, Darmian; De Rossi, Verratti, Pirlo, Marchisio, Candreva; Balotelli.

Tests: Buffon (ankle), De Sciglio (leg).

Costa Rica (Possible, 4-4-1-1): Navas; Gonzalez, Umana, Duarte, Gamboa; Bolanos, Diaz, Tejeda, Borges; Ruiz; Campbell.

"As for Costa Rica, they are likely to pick the same side that started against Uruguay, with Arsenal's Joel Campbell their lone centre-forward again," according to Ley.

Experts Prediction

Ley predicted a close match between Italy and Costa Rica, but the Azzuri will have the extra talent to grind out a 1-0 win. BBC's football analyst Mark Lawrenson also believed Italy will win the match, despite some hiccups in the match.

"There were moments in their game against England where Italy looked uncomfortable, but they got the job done, and they will do that again here," Lawrenson stated.

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(Photo: REUTERS/ / Siphiwe Sibeko)
England's Wayne Rooney (L) and Italy's Giorgio Chiellini fight for the ball during their 2014 World Cup Group D soccer match at the Amazonia arena in Manaus June 14, 2014.
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