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Italy, Uruguay battle for knockout-round berth

Jul 10, 2014 - 1:20 AM Natal, Brazil ( - Italy and Uruguay will battle for a place in the knockout round on Tuesday at the Estadio das Dunas in the final Group D match for both sides.

Both teams expected to be in the mix for a place in the second round, but only one can advance to the last 16 with Costa Rica pulling off one of the surprises of the tournament by securing a place in the next round after two games.

Italy and Uruguay are both well aware of Costa Rica's talent with both having been upset by the Ticos already.

Uruguay was Costa Rica's first victim as the Ticos scored three unanswered goals for a 3-1 victory over Uruguay, which was playing without star forward Luis Suarez, who was still recovering from knee surgery.

But Suarez responded in a big way against England last time out, scoring a pair of goals, including the match winner five minutes from time to give his side a chance at reaching the next round.

"There was a lot of criticism coming his way, saying that we'd be left with a player only 50 percent fit," Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera said of Suarez. "But when I heard that I thought, 'I'd rather have a player like him in the team anyway'. Even at three percent fit he can still win you a game."

Uruguay certainly looked like a different team with Suarez on the field, and he seemed to combine well with Edinson Cavani against England. That partnership must continue to thrive against Italy if Uruguay wants to reach the next round.

Based on goal difference, a draw would be enough for Italy to advance to the next round, but Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli is certainly expecting a tough game against a rejuvenated Uruguay side.

"It's going to be an especially challenging match," said Prandelli. "We played them last year in the Confederations Cup and after we played well for 35 minutes, they took over. But right now, we have to chase all negative thoughts away."

In that match, Italy and Uruguay played to a 2-2 draw in the third-place game before Italy won on penalty kicks.

However, Tuesday's fixture figures to be a much different affair with so much on the line.

Italy was in a great position after its 2-1 win over England in the opening match, but Costa Rica was able to grind out a 1-0 win against Prandelli's men, leaving Italy in a precarious position.

"Costa Rica were well organized, quick and good at winning the ball," Prandelli said after the defeat. "After we conceded the goal, we just couldn't get back into it. I'm sure we are going to step up a notch (for Uruguay). We have to, otherwise we are out."

Italy striker Mario Balotelli squandered a few good chances in the opening half and he will need to be more clinical in front of goal if Italy is going to survive.

Uruguay will hope to welcome captain Diego Lugano back into the fold after the defender missed the England match because of a knee injury. One player who will be available for head coach Oscar Tabarez is midfielder Alvaro Pereira, who was sent off against Costa Rica and missed the England game through suspension.