Preventing a Cup Calamity?: Costa Rica World Cup Preview
Costa Rica are looking forward to their first World Cup campaign since 2006 after losing out in a play off last time around to Uruguay. They will meet Uruguay again this time around in arguably the toughest group in the tournament alongside England and Italy.
Costa Rica finished 2nd in their CONCACAF qualifying section, behind the USA and above Honduras and Mexico (both of whom will also feature at this summer’s tournament). They won all of their 4th round qualifying matches at home without conceding a single goal, showing that the team performed when it counted the most. However, a poor away record in qualifying calls for concern that they rely on their own fans to perform. This could well hinder them in Brazil with only a very small number of supporters following them south for the tournament.
Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto has so far only named his 30 man preliminary squad. The main talking of which was the absence of Everton star Bryan Oviedo who has failed in a bid to mount an unlikely recovery from a double leg break. Pinto has said he will name his 23 man squad on 31st May before his team travel to Ireland Japan to prepare for the World Cup. The full 30 man squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Keilor Navas (Levante), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense), Daniel Cambronero (Herediano), Esteban Alvarado (AZ Alkmaar).
Defenders: Johnny Acosta (Alajuelense), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Columbus Crew), Michael Umana (Saprissa), Oscar Duarte (Brujas), Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew), Heiner Mora (Saprissa), Júnior Díaz (Mainz 05), Christian Gamboa (Rosenborg), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls), Kendall Waston (Saprissa).
Midfielders: Celso Borges (AIK), Christian Bolanos (FC Copenhagen), Oscar Esteban Granados (Herediano), Michael Barrantes (Alesund), Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa), Diego Calvo (Valerenga), José Miguel Cubero (Herediano), Carlos Hernández (Wellington Phoenix), Ariel Rodríguez (Alajuelense), Hansell Arauz (Saprissa).
Forwards: Alvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake), Bryan Ruiz (PSV Eindhoven), Joel Campbell (Arsenal), Randall Brenes (Cartagines), Marco Urena (FC Kuban Krasnodar), Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew).
Bryan Ruiz: The best known player in Costa Rica’s squad after 2 and a half seasons at Fulham, before falling out of favour with Rene Meulensteen. He has since gone on loan to PSV Eindhoven where he has scored 5 times in 14 appearances. The 6 foot 2 striker will pose an aerial threat from set pieces as well as having the technical ability to create chances for himself.
Joel Campbell: Arsenal’s 21 year old will be a relatively unknown on the world stage, but in this group has the perfect chance to announce himself. He is fast and technically talented on the ball. Also, a great eye for goal with 9 goals in 31 appearances for his country, and who could forget that goal for Olympiakos against Manchester United? Widely believed to be Costa Rica’s next great player, Campbell faces no pressure this time round in a tricky group which could give him the chance to shine.
Giancarlo Gonzalez: Gonzalez is the 26 year old key stone of Costa Rica’s defence, which looks set to be very busy this time around. After a strong season with Columbus Crew in the MLS, finishing with the 5th best defensive record, Costa Rica as a nation will be hoping that Gonzalez can carry his club form into this summer’s World Cup.
Likely Line Up
After a fantastic season with Levante we are more than likely to see Keilor Navas as the Costa Ricans’ goalkeeper and he will neeed to carry his club form forwards. No surprises with a strike force of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell, who will be faced with a tough task of outscoring some of the world’s finest attacking forces. Junior Diaz looks a likely replacement in the line up for Bryan Oviedo with a wealth of international experience to his name. A flat 4-4-2 is Pinto’s favoured formation and would be no surprise to see in a tough group where he can get 2 banks of 4 behind the ball to protect the point.
This is one of the simpler predictions at this World Cup. Costa Rica will go out in the group stage, and in my opinion will pick up no points. Only complacency from others in the groups should allow Costa Rica a sniff at getting out of the groups this time around.