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World Cup 2014: Italy 0 Costa Rica 1

What should have been a challenging but winnable game now puts Prandelli's Italy front and center of the next "big" team in the crosshairs to go home.

Robert Cianflone

Before we even dig into Italy there has to be a significant praise heaped on Costa Rica and their Coach, Jorge Luis Pinto. To deploy a team in a 5-3-2 and still maintain a desire to attack is true balance.  More importantly I don't remember a team that could hold an offside trap with this much discipline and compress the field to nothing, since the days of Sacchi's Milan.  This was football, 11 as one working as unit to control every facet of the match.  So yes, Costa Rica certainly earned this victory, but Italy never had a look about that suggesting they may want to win it.

There were exactly two chances in which Italy could have scored, both fell to Mario Balotelli.  The problem with Mario on this day was that he didn't have the patience or poise to deal with the defensive marking.  Instead of building on the two times he sprung the offside trap, he seemed to focus  on the physical double team he endured all match long.  Now a good striker with a level head would work this situation, hard! Creating space for his teammates and channels, instead he pouted and with it went Italy's chances.

It was clear in the first half that Costa Rica was presenting a very difficult defensive stance and while the PK question will remain in the minds of Costa Rica supporters they went into half with the lead.  At the start of the second half Prandelli had it all gain and instead he seemed to persist with playing through the middle.  When he finally introduced Cerci it was to late, but his unwillingness to adapt and evolve his team ended up being there undoing.  With Costa Rica's dominance of the center channel picking off passes for Cassano, Insigne and Balotelli and double teaming them with each pass, the game begged for width.  It almost didn't matter where it came from, fullbacks, wingers, but Italy was unable to find it.  Cerci and Abate could have provided something, but Darmian on the left looked almost as lost as Chiellini did on the flank against England.  Which brings up an interesting questions, at Milan DeSciglio at LB seems to be a question instead of the answer, yet Prandelli's team misses him dramatically in that role!?  That is a separate topic for a different day, but on this day Prandelli seemed to be watching a different match.

Now it leaves Italy with everything to lose against a challenging opponent in Uruguay.  For many a draw against England, win against Costa Rica and the Uruguay match was a non-event.  Now Italy has to contend with Luis Suarez in a must win match on Tuesday.  This won't be easy, but Italy has found ways out of harder situations.