Italy v Costa Rica
Venue: Arena Pernambuco, Recife Date: Friday 20 June Kick-off: 17:00
As an England fan my heart is dying for an Italy win here, just to keep hopes alive. With Costa Rica turning over Uruguay in style in game one, Italy will be far more prepared than if they had seen a whitewash.
The heat in Recife is going to suit Costa Rica, that’s for sure but Italy have the possession football which will make all the difference when it comes to who gets tired first. The Azzuri gained their advantage against England by playing wonderful football down the right as Candreva and Darmian took Leighton Baines to school. Pirlo and De Rossi were also fantastic to watch and they’re likely to dictate preceding once more today.
Costa Rica will be on Cloud 9 after their demolition job and will now fancy their chances of qualifying. The game plan will not particularly change here though and staying organised at the back and attacking on the counter will be the prerogative. Costa Rica also looked particularly dangerous from set pieces and gave Uruguay all sort of problems and this will be an important weapon. If Joel Campbell can play as well he did against Uruguay- anything can happen.
For me though, the main difference may well be Mario Balotelli who was immense against England, and listening to him in interviews he appears to be in a happy place. The former Manchester City striker used his brilliant movement throughout game one and if he decided to put in another big performance, I can see a goal or two from him. Costa Rica have a habit of conceding goals late in halves so look out for that too.
Advised Bet – Italy to win 2nd half – 10/11
France v Switzerland
Venue: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador Date: Friday 20 June Kick-off: 20:00
An intriguing tie here and one where Switzerland could pose the shock that sees them top the group. A well ground out result against Ecuador was a battle of the wingers and wing backs with Switzerland edging the encounter as Ricardo Rodriguez grabbed two assists. France took apart a Honduras side who had one objective in their game plan which was to kick the French up into the air. Paul Pogba almost rose to the bait but escaped a red card which cannot be said for Stoke midfielder Wilson Palacious. France comfortably saw out the game.
Switzerland are a strong outfit, very organised at the back as usual and have two of the best wing backs in the world in Rodriguez and Lichtsteiner. These two love to get down the wing and put balls in the box. Unfortunately for the Swiss they have nobody to convert them. Today against France who have the dangerous Valbuena and Griezmann we may see the Swiss pair play a little more conservatively which will harm the teams forward play. Valbuena looks a handful, both on the wing and cutting in, finding space between the lines. Drew plenty of fouls and Rodriguez could find himself with a yellow at some point.
France have looked dangerous throughout friendly games and even more so against Honduras where they controlled the game all the way through. This is a whole new challenge however. Deschamp’s side will be targeting Benaglio from crosses regularly after the Swiss number one struggled all game from set pieces and a Benzema goal may not be too far away. The striker looks on form after his cool finishing against the Hondurans.
All in all, I expect a very tight game but with Switzerland looking ever so open in the last 20 minutes against Ecuador, I can see a late France goal finishing it.
Advised Bet – under 2.5 goals – 4/5 Ladbrokes
Honduras v Ecuador
Venue: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba Date: Friday 20 June Kick-off: 23:00
As mentioned in the France verses Switzerland preview, Honduras came with a game plan to be ultra-physical with France, hoping to unnerve them. This back fired with the Palacios red card and without him, they will be a weaker outfit. Ecuador were ever so unfortunate to lose in the last kick of the game to Switzerland and the tie could have easily gone to other way.
In the head to heads, Ecuador have the edge and I believe they will be superior today. Ecuador have more quality in their side than Honduras to both create and finish chances. Edison Valencia scored a lovely header to open a lead against the Swiss and in Valencia they have a striker on form. For me the best player on the pitch in their first game was Jefferson Montero and when he was substituted, the Ecuadorians lost their key which was unlocking the defence. Montero will be vital once more.
Honduras have shown nothing to make us believe they have the quality to even score a goal in this tournament whereas Ecuador could have easily be aiming for top spot if they had won the battle of chances against Switzerland. Only one winner for me.
Advised Bet – Ecuador win to nil – 7/4 SkyBet