Italy vs. Uruguay, 2014 World Cup preview: Somehow, a playoff for one spot

Elsa

Thanks to Costa Rica, one knockout stage place is available for Italy and Uruguay.

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

Uruguay 1, Italy 0: Uruguay squeeze past Italy and into knockouts

Group D hasn't gone according to plan for Italy or Uruguay. They probably both expected a win over Costa Rica and a win or draw over England, setting up a final round match for first place in the group. Instead, Costa Rica have beaten them both, clinching a knockout stage place in the process, and there's only one berth in the Round of 16 available for the two group favorites (12 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Uruguay tried to get away with resting Luis Suarez in the first game, which ended up backfiring even if it was completely necessary. The good news for them is that he looked healthy in their last game, torching England on two occasions.

With Suarez back in the Uruguay lineup, Italy are expected to make some changes from the team and formation that played in their last two games. Is changing to a three-man defense and a pair of strikers up top what they need to right the ship? It's also worth noting that they only need a draw, while Uruguay have to win.

Team news

Daniele De Rossi is not expected to play after picking up an injury. That could lead Thiago Motta to play for Italy, but Cesare Prandelli is expected to pick a more attacking team that includes all of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti. It sounds like defensive suicide, but Uruguay's attacking prowess isn't really through their central midfielders.

Uruguay aren't expected to have Diego Lugano available, while Alvaro Pereira could miss out with a concussion. Oscar Tabarez will be hoping that Pereira passes a concussion test -- or maybe they won't do one and just throw him out there anyway, since they seem to be cool with that -- since the last fullback on Uruguay's bench, Jorge Fucile, simply isn't very good. Maxi Pereira is also out, through suspension.

Projected lineups (left to right)

Italy (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli; Mattia De Sciglio, Marco Verratti, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Matteo Darmian; Mario Balotelli, Ciro Immobile

Uruguay (4-4-2): Fernando Muslera; Martin Caceres, Jose Maria Gimenez, Diego Godin, Jorge Fucile; Cristian Rodriguez, Alvaro Gonzalez, Arevalo Rios, Nicolas Lodeiro; Edinson Cavani, Luiz Suarez

football formations

Key matchups

Marco Verratti vs. Nicolas Lodeiro - Yes, Uruguay won't be doing much counter-attacking through the center, but Verratti will still have to do some defending. Nicolas Lodeiro is expected to start for Uruguay, and as a right winger, he'll do a lot of drifting inside, moving to support Edinson Cavani in attack. If Verratti doesn't work hard defensively and allows Lodeiro free reign, Italy are in bad shape.

Jose Maria Gimenez vs. Mario Balotelli - Gimenez, the 19-year-old Atlético Madrid product, has looked a tad bit out of his depth in big games. He'll need to up his game quickly on Tuesday, because he's probably going to see a lot of Mario Balotelli. Good luck with that!

Prediction

While it's hard to pick against Suarez, he might not be at his best with this short recovery time. And other than his ability to score out of nowhere, Uruguay are just not as good of a team as Italy, especially with their injuries and suspensions. 2-1 Italy.

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