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Ineffective vs. Costa Rica, Italy needs changes

June 20, 2014

RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — Italy coach Cesare Prandelli once remarked that he dreamed of winning the World Cup by using seven different formations in seven matches.

Well, maybe now is the time to head back to the drawing board.

Prandelli’s 4-1-4-1 proved ineffective in a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica on Friday and now the Azzurri need a win or a draw against Uruguay on Tuesday to reach the second round.

Italy’s chances were essentially reduced to two opportunities for Mario Balotelli late in the first half. Otherwise, the Azzurri struggled to set up their center forward — even when Prandelli added three more attackers — Antonio Cassano, Lorenzo Insigne and Alessio Cerci — in the second half.

“The three attacking players I added didn’t help,” Prandelli said. “Balotelli moved well in the first half but in the second half we didn’t have anyone to set him up.”

Ciro Immobile, the striker who led Serie A with 22 goals — none of them penalties — could provide another option in attack against Uruguay, the team Italy beat in a penalty shootout in the third-place match of last year’s Confederations Cup.

“We’ve played an even match with our next opponent, and we can do that again in this do-or-die game,” the coach said.

Prandelli had been waging a battle for FIFA to allow water breaks during Italy’s matches and was again denied for this game. The temperature at the Arena Pernambuco was 29 C (84 F), with 70 percent humidity according to FIFA, well below the 32 C thresh-hold for breaks.

“The American squads are in better shape, they’re more reactive,” Prandelli said. “But it wasn’t the heat that affected us. We have no more excuses. We’ve known about the climate and the schedule for ages.”

Midfielder Daniele De Rossi was limping after the game due to a right calf muscle problem and Prandelli acknowledged that 35-year-old playmaker Andrea Pirlo was fatigued.

Perhaps that was because Costa Rica paid so much attention to Italy’s creative wizard.

“We covered Pirlo throughout the match,” Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. “We blocked his initiatives.”

Fullback Ignazio Abate also struggled and Prandelli will be hoping that Mattia De Sciglio can recover from a muscular problem that kept him out of the opening two matches.

It marked the fourth consecutive World Cup in which Italy failed to win its second match. In 2002 the Azzurri were beaten 2-1 by Croatia, in 2006 they drew 1-1 with the United States and 2010 they were held 1-1 by New Zealand.

But only in 2010 did Italy fail to advance.

“We knew it would be necessary to play the third match to advance,” Prandelli said. “Now we need to move on to the next match.”


Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf

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