This Costa Rica team is everyone’s pick to finish last in Group D. But maybe that’s just because no one knows too much about then. Change that right now by reading this list of 10 things you need to know about Costa Rica:
Coach: The Colombian manager Jorge Luis Pinto is back for a second stint in charge of Los Ticos and successfully guided them to a second place finish in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. Pinto is known as the “Explosive One” due to his track record of brawling with opposing coaches and referees.
Costa Rica keep defensive shape and look for a moment of excellence in front of goal. This style proved very effective in CONCACAF qualifying matches, resulting in the fewest number of allowed goals. Whether it can work against the likes of Italy, England, and Uruguay remains to be seen.
Levante’s Keylor Navas was one of the top keepers in La Liga this season. He is very capable of producing impossible-seeming reflex saves that keep Costa Rica alive against stronger opponents.
Fulham forward/midfielder and PSV Eindhoven loanee Bryan Ruiz is the captain and creative fulcrum of a squad that’s defensively sound but may not trouble their glamorous opponents going forward. If they do, Ruiz will be at the center of it, because he’s capable of doing things like this:
Pacy young Arsenal forward Joel Campbell spent the past season on loan at Greek club Olympiakos, where he famously scored this goal against Manchester United in the Champions League:
Impressive work from him here, against the United States:
Everton’s Bryan Oviedo is a highly skilled leftback who would have been key for Costa Rica in both defense and attack. But Ovideo broke his leg in January so will miss the World Cup. He is irreplaceable in their line-up.
New York Red Bulls fans will be familiar with Roy Miller. The pacy wideman will likely be Oviedo’s replacement at leftback. He can’t match Oviedo’s technique (like we said, irreplaceable) but sometimes there’s no substitute for being able to run really really fast.
Midfielder Celso Borges will be playing in his father’s native land.
Costa Rica is rightly perceived as the longshot in a group with heavyweights Italy, England, and Uruguay. Grabbing 1-3 points is probably their best hope, but if they are to surprise and advance, upsetting a potentially Suarez-free Uruguay in the opening match is essential.