Italy vs. Uruguay: 50-50 Challenge
With a place in the knockout stages of the World Cup at stake for either Italy or Uruguay, our expert bloggers Mina Rzouki (Italy) and Felipe Miguel (Uruguay) examine the vital Group D clash.
What's at stake?
MR: Uruguay and Italy were supposed to qualify from the group according to the countries' respective fans. Why? Well, between them they have won six World Cups and share a long history. Qualification is at stake and while Cesare Prandelli's men need a draw to progress, only a win will suffice for Uruguay to ensure they qualify alongside Costa Rica. Both countries excel under pressure, so who will win the tactical and mental battle?
Felipe Miguel: As coach Oscar Tabarez said, Uruguay are fortunate to have faced Italy a few times in the past few years, so they shouldn't be surprised by their tactics. In addition to a friendly won 1-0 by Uruguay in 2011, the teams faced each other in the semfinals of the Confederations Cup in June last year and the Azzurri won on penalties. The game will be decisive to both of them; the winner will join Costa Rica in round of 16. A draw also works for Italy but not for Uruguay, so La Celeste will have to go out on the field willing to destroy the world-famous Italian defensive system.
MR: Marco Verratti was sorely missed against Costa Rica, not simply because he excels at playmaking but because he's a man who guarantees his side possession of the ball. When Andrea Pirlo is forced to retreat, the Azzurri require another player capable of providing creativity. Tenacious and intelligent, Verratti excels in tight spaces and maintains composure while his vision ensures he usually delivers the right pass.
Played alongside his hero Pirlo, it's important Italy use both of them to assert their dominance in the midfield -- something England failed to do against Tabarez's men.
FM: Edinson Cavani could well be Uruguay's key man against Italy. Yes, Luis Suarez may have been superb against England and had a better domestic season than his teammate, but Cavani knows Italian football well, as Mina will explain in a bit. In the Confederations Cup, the Italians were all over Suarez in a bid to stifle him but couldn't control El Matador, who scored twice. After a squad-oriented performance against England, Cavani will have to give everything he has if Uruguay are to make it through.
MR: Suarez may have proved decisive against England, but Cavani is the player Italy should fear. He knows all about the Italian game, thanks to his time at Palermo and Napoli.
It was Cavani's outstanding work in the win over England -- his superb cross set up the opener -- that deserves the plaudits and should make him the man to watch.
FM: Italy's star Pirlo is the most dangerous man for the Uruguayan team. He's one of those unique players who dictate tempo, set up attacks and regulate the whole team's movement. Pirlo is Italy's backbone and cannot be left alone at any moment on the pitch. If Uruguay can't control him, they will never get a hold on the ball and will see how minutes start evaporating, along with their chances of winning. They also need to avoid giving away fouls near the box or Pirlo will punish their mistakes with his deadly free kicks.
MR: Uruguay are organised through the middle and apply overwhelming pressure to force their opponents out wide -- a wonderful strategy that disguises the weaknesses of their slow centre-backs and highlights the team's aerial ability. Matteo Darmian and Mattia De Sciglio will be crucial. Not only can they help stretch the backline by making intelligent runs to offer Mario Balotelli the opportunity to attack the centre-backs, but they can also help the midfield, making Italy more unpredictable going forward.
FM: Cavani will offer his usual supreme effort to get a hold of the ball and try to create his own opportunities. Ahead of him, one of the most compact defensive pairings of the tournament awaits: Giorgio Chielini and Andrea Barzagli. Although Prandelli has not confirmed the squad for Tuesday, these two are very likely to start, either on a three-man line or with two full-backs on their side. Cavani's stamina will also be a danger for Italy as the final minutes arrive and he continues to play as if the match had just started.
MR: Uruguay are ruthlessly efficient while Italy are tactically intelligent. Both boast talent in key areas and thrive under pressure. We may be looking at a 2-2 draw.
FM: 1-1. Uruguay will be under a tremendous amount of pressure and Italy thrive on playing defensively. La Celeste's men will probably do a good job in covering Pirlo and Mario Balotelli, but they need to be flawless to stop the Azzurri. I see a very rough match played almost entirely in the midfield with few chances for either side.