World Cup day 13: Italy and Uruguay in winner-takes-all clash | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 24.06.2014
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World Cup day 13: Italy and Uruguay in winner-takes-all clash

Costa Rica will be joined in the Last 16 by either Italy or Uruguay who go head-to-head in Natal with the winner progressing. Elsewhere, Japan, Ivory Coast and Greece are still in the mix to qualify from Group C.

Italy are on the verge of a second consecutive World Cup embarrassment. As reigning champions, the defense of their crown lasted the duration of the group stages at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, mirroring a similar disaster in 1950.

A win against England kicked-off the group stages in strong fashion, but a surprise defeat by Costa Rica has thrown the section wide open. The Central Americans have already ensured they will compete in the knockout stages, and they will be joined by either Italy or Uruguay.

Tonight, the contending pair meet in Natal with everything on the line. The permutations are simple for the Azzurri - avoid defeat and they would reach the Round of 16. "It's the biggest match of my career," said head coach Cesare Prandelli.

Prandelli hinted at this week's press conference that he would consider an attacking combo of Mario Balotelli and Borussia Dortmund's Ciro Immobile. The new addition at Signal Iduna Park came in for some glowing praise when the topic of strike-forces was raised.

"Ciro Immobile is a modern forward who knows how to attack deep, move between the lines and has a feeling for the goal inside the area," Prandelli said Monday. "He's a forward who helps the squad."

"These days every player needs to have all of these characteristics," Prandelli added. "If you're lacking even just one of them you're not a complete player."

Their opponents, Uruguay, picked up their first three points against England and are aiming to repeat the semi-final achievements of 2010. "We expect Italy to be tough opponents, but we know what's at stake and we are going out there to qualify," Liverpool's Luis Suarez said.

"It [his knee] feels good. I am in perfect shape," Suarez added. "If the knee didn't feel good I would have told the coach that I wasn't available. But I feel good now."

Three contenders; one winner:

Japan players post-Greece match

Pressure on Japan stars to deliver after underwhelming start.

Group C is a little more complex with Ivory Coast, Greece and Japan aiming to book a place in the Round of 16 this evening. The Africans are in the driving seat with three points from two matches, while Japan lie two points behind. A point for Didier Drogba's side would be enough to advance alongside Colombia.

To have any chance of reaching the Last 16, Japan need to win for the first time against South American side Colombia in Curitiba. The Samurai Blues have an inferior goal difference by one, so they would hope for the African side to lose.

Greece could also qualify, should Colombia defeat Japan and the Greeks, who have the group's worst goal difference, pick up a convincing win against Ivory Coast in Fortaleza.

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman indicated he may opt to rest players in the final game, four days before their quarterfinal clash. Mainz striker Shinji Okazaki was in fighting spirit, as Japan hope to finally kick-off their campaign after a disappointing start.

"We're betting everything on this match," he said. "We're going to give it everything we can."

Meanwhile, Costa Rica, who have won both matches, face England with the fate of both teams already secured by the final game. England, one-time World Cup winners in 1966, have lost to both Italy and Uruguay, and could leave the competition without picking up a single point.

"The situation is quite complicated for the match," Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. "The mother of football cannot leave without points. They must take some pride, they can't just leave Brazil with their arms crossed."

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