In this actual “Group of Death”, these two footballing powerhouses, Italy and Uruguay, have already been taken down by Costa Rica. They both have lacked a decent defense in the game and Uruguay and Italy ended up losing to Costa Rica 3-1 and 1-0 respectively. Now with Italy playing Uruguay in the last match of the group stages on Tuesday, June 24th, it means that the second spot for this group is going to be fiercely fought for.
The situation is simple: If Italy is to win or draw the match, they will advance to the round of 16; however, if Uruguay win the match, they will be the ones in the round of 16 and the Italians will be headed home.
Italy vs Uruguay
Luis Suarez (37 app) and Edinson Cavani (43) have a combined 80 appearances for their respective teams, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain. They also scored a combined total of 56 goals and Suarez was the Premier League top scorer with 31 goals and the Premier League Player of the Year.
Cavani was neither, and had a pretty disappointing season compared to his Napoli years where he was Serie A’s top scorer in his last season in Italy, with more than 33 goals all three seasons with the team from Naples.
Although Uruguay have an impressive attack, the Italians should be able to keep them in check by maintaining their shape and discipline as the defenders from Torino (Chiellini, Darmian, Barzagli) did in their Serie A season.
The battle-hardened defenders from Italy, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini (and Gigi Buffon), meanwhile marshalled the strongest defence in Serie A at Juventus only conceding 23 goals and losing just two matches. Even though they crashed out of the Champions League and did not win the Europa League either, they still managed to set a record points total for Serie A with 102 and won the title on matchday 35 when A.S. Roma lost 4-1 to Catania.
Serie A is known for its impressive defense and so is the Italian National team. It is an impressive, even shocking, fact that Italy have lost one game already and conceded two goals in two games. It is very noticeable that the humidity of Brazil is taking a toll on the Italians. Positioning is everything for the defense if they want to preserve energy and still keep a leash on Suarez and company. The Italians will also need to win every aerial battle as well because, as all Premier League fans know, Suarez is deadly with volleys and other styles of finishing such as heading. Barzagli is a defender who is strong and is very aware of his surroundings.
In Ligue 1, Cavani played second fiddle to the Swede, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in PSGs title winning season and was clearly unhappy about it, although he never said so. The French manager Laurent Blanc refused to play with two strikers up top and instead favored a 4-3-3 formation with an attacking three of Lavezzi-Ibrahimovic-Cavani(Lucas). His lack of playing as true striker clearly showed in the game against Costa Rica where Uruguay were without Suarez and he had to play the role. Cavani did not produce and managed to score only a penalty in their embarrassing loss to ‘Los Ticos’. In the game against England, Cavani was put up top with Suarez and he gave an assist by giving Suarez an immaculately-placed pass, yet he managed to miss an easy chance in the 52′ to put his team up by two. He has lacked goals and assists as well for PSG as shown by Squawka. Meanwhile, his compatriot, Luis Suarez, scored roughly 1/3 of his team’s goals in the Premier League. He also contributed with 12 assists which means he was involved in 43% of all of Liverpool’s goals in the 2013-2014 Barclays Premier League season, helping guide them to an impressive 2nd place finish, albeit being absent for the first five matches through suspension.
The main reason for why Italy will succeed against Suarez and Cavani is their style of play. Italy play with four defender and the gladiator, Daniele De Rossi, as a central defensive midfielder. De Rossi will choke out the supply to Suarez and, as long as the defenders maintain their shape and awareness, they should keep a clean sheet. Suarez cannot perform against teams such as Italy because of this.
Chelsea play very similar football to the Italians as well. It showed in Suarez’ two games against Chelsea FC in the EPL that, whenever he is put under constant pressure and his supply is not to be found, he cannot perform. It does not matter who the defender is as shown by Tomas Kalas, a 21-year-old defender who made his full debut for Chelsea in said match.
I trust that Italy, with all their experienced defenders and in overall World Cup experience, will be able to do this. Especially with this being a “do or die” match, with the victor passing to the next round.
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Main Photo via eversoccer.com