Natal: Italy look to reach the World Cup last 16 with victory over giant-killers Costa Rica today but the four-time champions are wary of Recife's tropical conditions.
Italy will bank on striker Mario Balotelli to deliver the goods today. Pic/AFP
Tough-tackling Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi has underlined Costa Rica's likely advantage in the sweltering conditions in Recife, where he said Italy were "dying from the heat" last year during the Confederations Cup.
Having made a blistering start to what is only their fourth World Cup campaign with a shock 3-1 win over Uruguay, the 'Ticos' would be forgiven for keeping the pace high from kick-off as they go in search of another upset.
"Italy have great players like (Mario) Balotelli and (Andrea) Pirlo, who controls all of their play, and we have a lot of respect for them," said FC Copenhagen midfielder Christian Bolanos.
"But we'll hope to benefit from the heavy climate. We are used to playing in those kinds of temperatures."
Italy, who crashed out at the group stage in 2010, launched their bid for a record-equalling fifth title with a crucial 2-1 win over England in Manaus last week in their Group D opener.
Put on notice
But the four-time champions were given notice following Costa Rica's shock win over 2010 semi-finalists Uruguay that a match they would have been widely expected to dominate may be more difficult than first imagined.
"They'll be fired up after their win," said De Rossi. "If they had lost 4-0 then we might have underestimated them, but now there's no chance of that." However De Rossi added: "But I hope, and I'm sure, we can beat Costa Rica and secure our ticket to the second round."