Italy face Uruguay in a titanic battle for a place in the knockout stages, while England only have pride left to play for as they face Group D leaders Costa Rica on Tuesday.
Japan, who face Group C leaders Columbia, will be hoping for a favour from Greece. In fact Japan not only have to beat Columbia, but will also need Greece to beat Cote D’ivoire if they are to advance. Such unenviable situations seldom bare fruit, but this is the World Cup and hope springs eternal.
The showdown between Italy and Uruguay is certainly the pick of Tuesday’s matches. The Italians have a wonderful cocktail of experience, flair, and defense, and exuberance in youth is not one of their strong suites, but Cesare Prandelli knows how to get the most out of what he’s got.
Following the 2006 World Cup winner’s embarrassing group-stage exit in South Africa in 2010, the Italian faithful will certainly not take kindly to a similar fate for a second successive World Cup campaign. Italian football is in deep enough trouble as it is, given the quality of a number of their stadiums, and yet more match-fixing scandals drawing their game into disrepute. Bear in mind however that following the last Italian match-fixing scandal, they did end up winning the World Cup.
With respect to Uruguay though, you never really know what you’re going to get. Their 3-1 loss to Costa Rica came in Luis Suarez’s absence, and his return against England heralded a vital victory. Of course there is more to the team than just Suarez, but he is undeniably a vital cog in the Uruguayan machine.
Given that Uruguay will enjoy an almost home-ground advantage over Italy and with the raft of star players in their lineup, I’m going with Uruguay to claim a slim 2-1 victory over the wily Italians.
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