Friday starts with the big Group D match between Italy and Costa Rica. Uruguay defeated on England on Thursday, which clears up some of the scenarios in the group. A Costa Rica win or draw will eliminate the Three Lions before the last group game. The second matches of Group E are today as France and Switzerland battle for first, and Ecuador and Honduras try to keep their hopes alive.
Match: Italy vs. Costa Rica in Recife
What to watch for: The Italian narrative at most World Cups is to start slow and then improve as the tournament progresses. If that is the case in this tournament, they will make a deep run this World Cup. They played just well enough to beat England 2-1 in their first match. The Italian midfield had a strong showing and Mario Balotelli proved to his manager why he was the right choice to start at striker over Ciro Immobile. Costa Rica pulled off one of the surprise results of the tournament. They shocked Uruguay with three second half goals. Striker Joel Campbell, who turns 22 on Thursday, was the catalyst in Costa Rica’s 3-1 victory.
Players to watch: The best part of Italy’s first goal was how Andrea Pirlo let the ball run past him that led to Cladio Marchiso’s shot from outside the box. Pirlo is still a clever player at 35-years-old and it’s always fun to watch his next creative piece of skill. Campbell tore up Uruguay’s defense on Saturday. He now goes up against a more organized back line in Italy so it will be interesting if the young star continues to shine.
Prediction: Italy 2 (Candreva, de Rossi), Costa Rica 1 (Campbell)
I think Italy scores a late goal through de Rossi to give them the three points, and put them in the driver seat of Group D. Both teams will score in this match.
Match: Switzerland vs. France in Salvador
What to watch for: Switzerland won in dramatic fashion after dominating the match statistically against Ecuador. They literally scored the game winning goal on the last kick of the game. France made sure in their first match that they will have a better tournament than the 2010 World Cup. Karim Benzema, who was omitted from the 2010 team, scored two goals and took advantage of an undisciplined Honduras side. France could’ve won by more than three goals as Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann had solid scoring chances. This match between the two European teams could decide who tops Group E.
Players to watch: Switzerland right back Stephan Lichtsteiner is a strong player can push up to help the attack. He might get a few chances to make runs up the pitch with defender Patrice Evra and winger Griezmann on France’s left side. Paul Pogba is a young talent whose hot tempter sometimes can challenge his focus like we saw against Honduras. Pogba is am important player in this game against Swiss midfielders Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Prediction: Switzerland 1 (Shaqiri), France 1 (Valbuena)
Switzerland will score first through Shaqiri, who had five shots on goal against Ecuador. Valbuena will equalize in the second half.
Match: Honduras vs. Ecuador in Curitiba
What to watch for: Honduras looked unorganized and didn’t provide any attack against France. It didn’t help that they played the entire second half a man down after Wilson Palacios’ red card. Honduras needs to get more from strikers Jerry Bengston and Carlo Costly who were invisible against France. Ecuador feels unlucky that they didn’t get at least a point in their opening match. They need to get back on track and focus on getting a much needed win.
Players to watch: Honduras midfielder Andy Najar is a 21-year-old midfielder that will hope to provide a little more creativity to the Honduras outfit. Antonio Valencia is the leader of Ecuador, and will need to make sure his teammates focus on the task after the tough loss on Sunday.
Prediction: Ecuador 2 (Enner Valenica, Montero) Honduras 0
Ecuador will get the victory and Honduras will end the match with 10-men.