The FourFourTwo Preview: Uruguay vs Costa Rica
The other game. The one that at this point has no real significance. But give it time.
Uruguay go into this tournament with high hopes and lofty ambitions. They take confidence from the fact they won the only previous World Cup held in Brazil, defeating the hosts in the final, even if this was now 64 years ago. As their coach Oscar Tabarez says, "There's no comparison [with 1950]. The world was different then. It was a different Brazil, and Uruguay had a position of power we no longer occupy." So it's of no real significance in 2014, but he's still answering questions about it.
They also go in with high hopes of going deep into the tournament because they possess two of the most feared and admired strikers on the planet in Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, providing the latter is fit.
If he's not, subtract Luis Suarez and add Diego Forlan and revise all predictions downwards. If Suarez is fit, then Uruguay go into this tournament with their eyes on at least escaping Group D at the expense of either Italy or England, because the fixtures might possibly have been generous to them: facing the weakest team first.
Uruguay could head into that crucial second game against England with momentum and the psychological advantage of having three points already in the bag. But then, some will argue that facing a fresh, optimistic Costa Rica who haven't yet been deflated by defeat is a distinct disadvantage. In other words, we're all just guessing.
In almost every other group at this World Cup, the most gifted Costa Rica since 1990 might have had their bar set at the last 16. Here, in a group of three previous World Cup winners, they're there to spoil the party for someone. Defensive-minded but with the legs to counter quickly, they'll be hard to beat and may spring a surprise and inflict a fatal blow on one of the three big guns. But it's unlikely to be against Uruguay.
In every game of the 2012 World Cup, Uruguay had less possession but more shots than the opposition, and reached the semi-finals. They may enjoy more possession against Costa Rica, and have more shots on goal. And if it's Suarez and Cavani taking those shots, they should get off to a winning start.
What the local media say
"Much will depend on how Luis Suarez’s injury heals, for what it means both in football and in morale terms," says Pablo Benitez of Uruguay's El Observador. "Depending on the luck of the draw, they could make the quarter-finals."
Key battle: Suarez and Cavani vs Keylor Navas
Suarez was the top scorer in the South American World Cup qualifiers with 11 goals and had the most shots on target in the last World Cup – 15. Cavani is less prolific (six goals in 16 qualifying rounds) but the man who shoots boars in his spare time still poses a terrible threat. Frequently impressive for Levante last season, Costa Rica keeper Navas will need to excel to keep Uruguay's score on nought.
Facts and figures
- Uruguay have won 6 and lost 0 of their 8 previous meetings with Costa Rica, most recently beating them 2-1 on aggregate in a 2010 World Cup play-off.
- Costa Rica have lost all 3 previous World Cup meetings with South American sides, conceding 9 goals in the process.
- But Los Ticos have at least won their opening game in 2 of their previous 3 World Cup tournaments – 1-0 against Scotland in 1990 and 2-0 against China in 2002.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
It may not be quick or pretty, but Tabarez's men have the firepower to inflict damage. 2-0 Uruguay.