MANGARATIBA, Brazil (AP) ― Call it tik-Italia.
Italy has taken Spain’s famed “tiki-taka” system and revamped it to deal with Brazil’s heat and humidity.
The Azzurri mesmerized England by completing an astounding 93.2 percent of their passes during a 2-1 win on Saturday according to data company Opta Sports ― the highest accuracy recorded in a World Cup match since the statistic began to be recorded in 1966. The previous record belonged to Denmark at 92.7 percent from a 6-1 win over Uruguay in 1986, according to Opta.
FIFA, however, gave Italy an 89-percent passing completion.
For long stretches, Italy’s midfielders simply passed the ball back and forth between themselves.
It was a strategic decision to deal with stifling conditions at the tournament’s Amazonian venue of Manaus.
Expect more of it on Friday when the Azzurri face Costa Rica in Recife, where kickoff could come under a torrid sun at 1 p.m. local time.
“(Coach Cesare) Prandelli invented our style of play by adapting to our characteristics,” midfielder Daniele De Rossi explained Tuesday.
“We don’t have players that make runs for 40 or 50 meters without touching the ball. We get the ball to our most skillful players without squeezing the energy out of them.
“It’s very hot and our way of playing takes less effort,” De Rossi added. “I’ve seen squads that after a half hour are running at 2 kilometers per hour.”
No wonder Prandelli used five midfielders against England in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
De Rossi lined up just in front of the defense, and wingers Antonio Candreva and Claudio Marchisio surrounded central midfielders Marco Verratti and Andrea Pirlo.
By the time Italy scored the opening goal Saturday, England didn’t know how to react.
On a corner, Candreva made a short pass to Verratti who slipped the ball across the pitch toward Pirlo, who stepped over it to fool the defense and let Marchisio find the target from beyond the area.