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Italy questions its fitness after Costa Rica loss

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 21, 2014 at 3:48 pm •  Published: June 21, 2014

NATAL, Brazil (AP) — Italy boasted for weeks about its physical fitness preparation for this World Cup.

Coach Cesare Prandelli constantly said he wanted to bring not just 23 players to Brazil "but 23 athletes."

Players' fitness levels were monitored down to the most minimal details for months. Specially trained nutritionists selected all the food and liquid that the Azzurri consumed.

So how did Italy go from physically dominating England in the Amazonian venue of Manaus to getting out-run and out-played by unheralded Costa Rica in a 1-0 loss Friday in Recife?

While it was nowhere near as hot as Italy feared against Costa Rica — 29 C (84 F) and 70 percent humidity according to FIFA — the Azzurri struggled to keep up with the speedy Ticos for long stretches.

"We did everything we could to prepare, but matches are an entirely different matter," team physican Enrico Castellacci said Saturday.

Midfielder Claudio Marchisio scored the opening goal in the 2-1 win over England and said the conditions in that game made him hallucinate at times. He also felt the heat against Costa Rica.

"You can say all you want but we played against a squad that is more used to this climate," Marchisio said. "Sure there were some key chances that we didn't take advantage of and would have changed the match. But in the second half the heat was the difference, that's for sure. It's not an alibi."

Midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo shined against England, too, but had trouble making an impact against Costa Rica — Ticos coach Jorge Luis Pinto revealed afterward he'd designed a special defensive web to contain the passing wizard.

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