The final round of Group D play for the FIFA World Cup takes place Tuesday, with simultaneous matches to determine who will advance to the round of 16. First place Costa Rica will take on the English side they indirectly eliminated earlier this week, while Italy and Uruguay fight for the second advancing spot.
Costa Rica v England
Costa Rica guaranteed their advancement to the next round with victories over Uruguay and Italy. Los Ticos will move on to the round of 16 no matter the outcome of this game, but will be playing to retain first place so has to avoid playing the top team from Group C—likely Columbia at this point.
The only way that Costa Rica can fall to second place is if they lose to England and Italy wins by a combined differential of four goals, or if they lose and Uruguay wins by a combined goal differential of five. Fans will see some of the less-capped players get a chance in this game, as the starters rest for the next round, though Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell will make their usual starts.
England was officially eliminated from the tournament with Costa Rica’s win over Italy, and cannot advance no matter the outcome of the two games. The Three Lions will be playing for pride at this point, hoping to snag a result of some kind before boarding a plane home. England is playing several younger, untested players like Ross Barkley and Luke Shaw to give them exposure on the world stage before they become the heart of the team in 2018.
Prediction: Costa Rica 1 – 1 England; Sturridge and Campbell will each grab a point for their side. Costa Rica will take first place in the group, and England will head home to reevaluate for 2018.
Italy v Uruguay
Italy started strong in the tournament, running circles around the English side with a calm, collected 2-1 win. Andrea Pirlo had a little more trouble finding his groove against Costa Rica, however, and the Azzurri could not find the net despite two wide open chances for Mario Balotelli. Italy took an unexpected loss and now finds itself in a must-win game situation—or at least a “must-not-lose.”
If Italy can at least manage a tie against Uruguay, the team will advance on goal differential. Italy can also secure the top spot in Group D if Costa Rica loses and they beat Uruguay by a margin of four or more in their final match, which would give them a slightly easier opponent in the round of 16 for the 2014 World Cup. The Italians have changed up their back line slightly for this match to accommodate the speed of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
Uruguay did not get quite the start they hoped for, playing their opening game without star striker Suarez and losing 3-1 to the one team in the group that is not a former World Cup Champion. Los Catrachos got Suarez back in time to beat England 2-1 despite Rooney’s best efforts, keeping their hopes alive.
Italy will not run circles around Uruguay’s midfield as they did with England, but Pirlo will not have as much trouble with Uruguay as with Costa Rica. Suárez, Cavani, and Nicolás Lodeiro will be a danger to Italy’s back line, but Chiellini, Darmian, and Marchisio will disrupt the triangle as much as possible.
Prediction: Uruguay 2 – 2 Italy; Pirlo and Balotelli will score against a back four not nearly as cohesive as Costa Rica, and Suárez will prove again why he is Uruguay’s star player while Cavani gets his second of the tournament. Italy will advance on goal differential.
Costa Rica and Italy will advance to the round of 16 for the FIFA World Cup following the final matches of Group D play. Costa Rica will face the second place team from Group C, which will likely be Côte d’Ivoire, and Italy will have to try their hand against a dominant Columbian team in the first knockout round.
Commentary by Christina Jones