RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A draw between Italy and Costa Rica on Friday would put England out of contention at the World Cup.
Luckily for England, neither team will be prepared to settle for one point with so much still at stake in Group D.
Italy and Costa Rica already have a win each, and another victory would let either team take control of the standings. Costa Rica opened with a stunning win over 2010 semifinalist Uruguay, which rebounded with a 2-1 victory over an England team that lost its opener to Italy.
In Group E, top spot will likely go to the winner of the France vs. Switzerland match on Friday, when Ecuador and Honduras are also playing for survival on day nine of the World Cup.
Things to watch for Friday:
TIME FOR SUFFERING: After beating England 2-1 deep in the Amazon, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli expects his team will “suffer” with a kickoff in the middle of the day against Costa Rica.
The Italians struggled with the heat and humidity during the Confederations Cup in Brazil last year, and have been preparing for the stifling conditions ever since. Prandelli is urging FIFA to implement water breaks for players during the match, something that might help his team combat the fact his opponents are very familiar with the conditions — and are in hot form after a 3-1 win over Uruguay.
“We’re ready. We don’t have any more excuses,” Prandelli said. “I really believe that we will suffer, but we have an idea of what we’re going to be doing on the pitch.”
With English World Cup hopes hanging by a thread, Italy forward Mario Balotelli — who scored the winning goal against them at Manaus — offered some encouragement when he tweeted after England lost to Uruguay on Thursday: “If we beat Costa Rica i want a kiss, obviously on the cheek, from the UK Queen.”
Italy has some injury concerns over veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and center back Andrea Barzagli, and Prandelli is considering changes in defense. He also has the option of giving Brazilian-born Thiago Motta a start in midfield.
Joel Campbell, the 21-year-old who scored one goal and set up another against Uruguay, will again be a player to watch from Costa Rica.
Venue: Recife. Kickoff: 1 p.m. local time (noon in New York, 5 p.m. in London, 1 a.m. in Tokyo).
EUROPEAN DERBY: The winner of the France-Switzerland match will be in a strong position to finish atop Group E, and likely avoid a second-round match against Argentina.
No. 6-ranked Switzerland didn’t put on a convincing show in its opening match, needing a very late goal from substitute Haris Seferovic to beat Ecuador 2-1. France had an emphatic 3-0 win over Honduras in its first World Cup match since its troubled 2010 campaign, which was tainted by a training-ground strike.
Still, the game should be tight and likely could be decided on one or two errors or moments of brilliance. Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema scored twice against Honduras and should again be the prime target man for France.
The midfield battle between the likes of Switzerland’s Valon Behrami, Goekhan Inler and Xherdan Shaqiri going against France’s Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Yohan Cabaye could be decisive.
“It’s a derby,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said. “We have to be firm in the defense and react quickly on counter strikes.”
Venue: Salvador. Kickoff: 4 p.m. local time (3 p.m. in New York, 8 p.m. in London, 4 a.m. in Tokyo).
EVERYTHING TO LOSE: Depending on the result between France and Switzerland, there’s a chance Honduras and Ecuador will play in the knowledge that defeat will end all hope of qualifying for the knockout stages.
In the opening games, Ecuador lost to Switzerland in the dying seconds and was more impressive in defeat than Honduras, which played with 10 men against France after Wilson Palacios was sent off.
In the absence of the suspended Palacios, Jorge Claros should get a start and 21-year-old Andy Najar may get an opportunity from the bench.
The teams have intertwining connections, both guided by Colombian coaches who have — in a way — traded positions.
Ecuador Reinaldo Rueda was coach of Honduras at the 2010 World Cup. Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez was coach of Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup.
Honduras is playing in its third World Cup, but is yet to win a match at football’s marquee tournament.
Venue: Curitiba. Kickoff: 7 p.m. local time (6 p.m. in New York, 11 p.m. in London, 7 a.m. in Tokyo).
Follow John Pye on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JP—at—AP