Italy fight for World Cup surival
Cesare Prandelli (Supplied)
RIO DE JANEIRO - Italy face Uruguay in a World Cup fight for survival on Tuesday between the former champions as England hope to draw a line under a disastrous campaign by giving a sign of hope for the future.
There will also be a three-way battle for a round of 16 place between Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece.
Italy play Uruguay in Natal at 18:00 SA time with Italy needing a point and their opponents, because of their inferior goal difference, aiming for a win to go through from Group D. At the same time, group leaders Costa Rica will be looking for a third upset scalp when they take on England in Belo Horizonte.
In Group C, Japan play leaders Colombia in Cuiaba at 22:00 SA time knowing that even a win does not guarantee a place in the knockout stage. They will be anxiously waiting for news of the Greece-Ivory Coast game at the same time in Fortaleza.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has hinted at using the untried strike partnership of Mario Balotelli and Ciro Immobile as Italy seek the point to avoid falling out at the group stage for the second straight World Cup finals.
Balotelli is already certain to start. But the coach said that 24-year-old Immobile could help counter Uruguay's Luiz Suarez and Edinson Cavani, who Prandelli said was "one of the strongest strike partnerships at the World Cup."
Costa Rica are already qualified having beaten Italy and Uruguay. One point against demoralised England will be enough.
Roy Hodgson has ordered nine changes to the team beaten by two Suarez goals for their last match in Brazil.
He remains defiant though. "We're very conscious of the fact that our fans are as disappointed and devastated as we are, but they are still here supporting us," said Hodgson.
"It's a top-class international on the biggest stage of all, the World Cup, so anything else than taking the game very seriously and trying to win the game in its own right would be out of the question," he added.
- Complicated Maths -
Deciding Group C is like rolling dice in comparison.
Colombia are qualified and with their superior goal difference are still likely to top the group even if Japan rise up to beat them in Cuiaba.
Asian champions Japan, who have scored only one goal so far, need a big win and coach Alberto Zaccheroni said he is "confident" that it is possible.
But he insisted they must come together as a team to prove their worth and support star striker Keisuke Honda.
"If the team doesn't have the right balance then even the great individual players suffer from that and have difficulty," Zaccheroni said.
Greece have yet to score a goal, but remain a thorn in the side of their rivals, still able to qualify on paper with landslide of goals against Ivory Coast.
Just a draw for the Africans would probably see them through as long as Japan do not win.
The Africans have plenty of stars led by the veteran Didier Drogba. But Yaya and Kolo Toure will have to shake off their grief over the death of their brother last week.
To spice up the stakes, President Alassane Ouattara said Monday he would double their World Cup win bonuses of about 17,000 euros if they beat Greece.