Italy v Costa Rica: Key battles – Former Manchester City forward crucial

Cole and Balotelli England Italy

Mario Balotelli will be key to Italy’s chances of winning against Costa Rica.

Mario Balotelli v Oscar Duarte 

Former Manchester City star Balotelli showed the world why he is not be taken lightly when Italy played England in their group opener. He not only played a part in their fluent play, but also scored the winner that handed the Azzurri all three points.

The striker has shown recent signs of maturing as player on the pitch and delivering performances worthy of his talent. As long as he keeps this up, he will be a major threat for Costa Rica to deal with.

Duarte was a relatively unheard of name until he popped up against Uruguay and became a national hero. He put in a really solid performance not only defensively but in all aspects of his game.

Joel Campbell v Gianluigi Buffon

Campbell loves the headlines, scoring a wondergoal against Manchester United in the Champions League last season and then hitting the equaliser against Uruguay at the World Cup. His eye for detail and his pace often allow him to get into goalscoring opportunities which is why Buffon will need to make sure that he is always aware.

The Arsenal man can certainly strike and finish off a chance but with the experience of Buffon against him, this may come as a tall order. Buffon’s years in the game have allowed him to play up against many of the best players. This has given him great experience in reading strikers' thoughts.

If Costa Rica want to get anything out of this game, then Campbell will have to get past Buffon.

Andrea Pirlo v Costa Rica

This may seem as an odd key battle, one man against a whole team, but the reason it’s like this is because Costa Rica have to shut down Pirlo.

Pirlo can stand still with the ball, be surrounded by four players and still pick a pass. His maturity, coolness and swagger allow him to be a very accomplished midfielder. As a team, Costa Rica will have to find the best way to shut him down and cut of all his resources. Manchester United did this very well once in the Champions League by deploying Park Ji-sung on him the whole game, rendering him ineffective.

Costa Rica will need to find similar inspiration in one of their players.

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