RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — Italy coach Cesare Prandelli needed little more than 20 minutes of practice inside Arena Pernambuco to reaffirm his belief that FIFA should grant time-outs for players during Friday’s Group D match against Costa Rica.
The climate in Recife, a coastal city about 8 degrees latitude south of the equator, “is not normal,” Prandelli said. “It can change in 10 minutes.”
Prandelli said he had staff monitoring the conditions during practice, adding that during a 20-minute span, conditions went from about 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) with 57 percent humidity to nearly 40 C (104 F) with 70 percent humidity.
The second temperature figure might have been an exaggeration. Various weather reports available online indicated that the high temperature settled at nearly 30 C (86 F).
Still, the Italians aren’t bashful when it comes to expressing wariness over the stifling tropical conditions in Brazil. They overcame it against England in the steamy Amazon city of Manaus last weekend, but Costa Rica represents the first Latin American lineup the Azzurri will play, and Prandelli said he expects conditions to favor the Ticos.
“As far as I’m concerned the South American teams have an advantage not just because they live and work and operate under these conditions, but their explosiveness is different from that of European teams,” Prandelli said, lumping his Central American opponent in with its counterparts farther south. “Based on the data that we looked at and the matches we analyzed, the Europeans withstand more (defensively) — they’re more resistant — but they are less explosive vis-a-vis their South American counterparts.”
Prandelli said the Italians knew well in advance they would have to cope with the heat and humidity.
“We’re ready. We don’t have any more excuses,” he said. “The climate doesn’t scare us anymore. The squads scare us — the squads that increase their pace during matches.
“So tomorrow, I think we’re going to be suffering. I really believe that we will suffer, but we have an idea of what we’re going to be doing on the pitch.”
Forecasts are calling for rain and temperatures approaching 30 C (86 F) again.
If hot, humid conditions work to the Costa Ricans’ advantage as well, they’ll take it. But coach Jorge Luis Pinto seemed inclined to downplay that, and the potential for rain was in the forecast.
“This sort of weather can have an impact on everybody, but I don’t care about the weather,” Pinto said. “I care about what happens on the field. Whether it’s hot or not, we have to fight, we have to run, so no excuses. … I don’t know if we have an advantage. If we do, all the better, but Italy will fight and they will run. They fought and ran in Manaus where it was hotter.”
In any event, Costa Rica is brimming with confidence — and said as much — following its 3-1 tournament-opening triumph over Uruguay. A victory over Italy would place Costa Rica in the knockout round for the first time since 1990.
“Many of us were not known before this World Cup, but we played very well against Uruguay,” defender Giancarlo Gonzalez said. “That was a very good introduction to the world, I think.”
Particularly so for Gonzalez’s 21-year-old teammate, Joel Campbell, a striker who spent last season on loan from Arsenal to Olympiakos, the Greek champions.
Campbell began Costa Rica’s comeback against Uruguay with a blistering left-foot shot that leveled the score. He also played an influential part in the buildup to the team’s third goal.
“We’re faced with a very modern player, one who creates space for other attackers,” Prandelli said. “He’s a very interesting player because he’s able to shoot the ball right on goal, even from distance.”
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