World Cup Group D preview: Uruguay v Costa Rica
A high calibre Latin American football meeting will grace the Brazilian state of Ceará as Group D is kick-started in what will be a titanic battle between two very differing styles of football. Shaun Moran previews the clash.
The draw for the 2014 World Cup has managed to pit some of the cream of football against each another in the tournament’s opening fortnight.
Despite this particular encounter being unable to match it with other headline-grabbing ties such as the England versus Italy match that follows thereafter, the implications for the group remain much the same.
Uruguay’s Las Celeste are fancied to sweep aside their lesser-fancied opponents in what could be a goal-fest as they look to hit their straps and take apart Los Ticos.
The South American’s performances in their warm up matches will not send too many chills down the spines of their rivals, while Costa Rica have also been anything but convincing.
Both will need to step up to the plate in Fortaleza from the get-go to ensure that they are not left behind.
These two nations have faced off on eight occasions in their history with Costa Rica having been unable to taste victory to date.
Los Ticos and Los Charruas last met back in 2010 in a FIFA World Cup South Africa inter-continental qualifying playoff.
Uruguay came out on top 1-0 in San Jose thanks to a goal by current captain Diego Lugano.
They then held on for a 1-1 draw in the return leg in Montevideo after Abreu and Centeno netted on that occasion to book their spot in the finals against a valiant Central American outfit.
Two-time World Cup winners Uruguay have been anxiously waiting on the fitness of key hitman Luis Suarez who is recovering from recent knee surgery.
A star-studded team will face Costa Rica regardless of whether Suarez features or not. Edinson Cavani can step into his shoes, as can Palermo’s Abel Hernandez and Diego Forlan.
Fernando Muslera will be there for Oscar Tabarez’s men between the sticks, should he be needed.
Costa Rica received a cruel blow following the news that key striker Alvaro Saborio broke his foot and was left out of the 23-man list. Bryan Oviedo, who plies his trade with English Premier League side Everton, also misses out with a broken leg.
Defender Giancarlo Gonzalez will be able to feature despite being sent off for violent behaviour in his country’s final friendly against Ireland while skipper Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell and goalkeeper Keylor Navas look certain to take their place in the starting XI.
The game breaker
Keylor Navas will have his work cut out keeping out the tenacious Uruguayans for 90 odd minutes.
The 27-year-old, dubbed the “Falcon” was lauded as one of La Liga’s finest goalkeepers by the official website ligabbva.com, exemplifying his worth.
Navas, who plays his football with Levante, is revered for his agility and shot-stopping abilities. All will need to come to the fore in Fortaleza.
The side who asserts their unique style on the contest will come up trumps.
Uruguay’s pace, flare and lethalness in front of goal, which saw them clinch the 2011 Copa America, will face a less talented and experienced Costa Rican side nervy from the get go.
If the latter’s impressive record at the back in World Cup qualifying is anything to go by though, they may find themselves able to stifle the 2010 semi-finalists.
Nothing less than a win for Las Celeste will suffice. With more gruelling challenges to come, goal difference and their sizeable artillery in mind, they should have enough to prevail. Prediction: Uruguay 2 - 0 Costa Rica.