Uruguay v Costa Rica – Double Trouble For Uruguay
Uruguay v Costa Rice
An ageing, possibly Suarez-less Uruguay take on Costa Rica in the opening game of Group D. Will they have enough in the tank to see the underdogs off?
Wins and clean sheets against Northern Ireland and Slovenia stand Uruguay in good stead ahead of their Brazil 2014 opener this Saturday night.
Oscar Tabarez’s men faltered for 18 months following their 2011 Copa America win, which left an uphill struggle to secure qualification for this summer’s tournament. However, a run of four wins from their final five CONEMBOL qualifiers ensured that they at least went into their two-legged play-off tie with Jordan on the front foot, a tie which they won 5-0 on aggregate.
Luis Suarez, with 11 goals, was the top goalscorer in all of South American qualifying, with Edinson Cavani getting six and Diego Forlan two to account for 76% of Uruguay’s 25 goals.
Costa Rica qualified for the World Cup with a strong degree of optimism after finishing in second place behind USA in CONCACAF qualification. However, the tough draw alongside three former World Cup winners with nine trophies between them has somewhat dampened expectations.
But the lack of expectations may make Jorge Luis Pinto’s side even more dangerous. A capable team with nothing to lose, who have beaten Paraguay, Mexico and USA in the past 12 months, could throw a spanner in the works for any one of their fellow Group D opponents.
Luis Suarez is said to be responding well to the knee surgery he underwent less than four weeks ago, but it is thought that his return will be held back until Uruguay’s match with England next Thursday. That could mean that Diego Forlan is named in the starting XI alongside Edison Cavani for what will be the former Manchester United striker’s final international tournament.
Bryan Oviedo and Álvaro Saborío both miss out on the World Cup due to injury, but the Costa Ricans can boast one of the world’s top goalkeepers in Levante’s Keylor Navas.
Head to Head
Uruguay beat Costa Rica 2-1 on aggregate when the sides last met in a two-legged play-off for qualification to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Uruguay won 1-0 in Costa Rica thanks to a Diego Lugano goal, before a 1-1 draw in Montevideo completed the job for Tabarez’s side. Costa Rica haven’t beaten Uruguay in eight previous meetings over the last 25 years.
Although Uruguay are obvious favourites here (4/9), I’m not sure that this will be a straightforward win, particularly without the services of Suarez.
A lot of people are fancying the 2011 Copa America winners to go deep in this competition, but my feeling is that they are a side coming to the end of their cycle and that this may be a tournament too far for Tabarez. They could get a rude awakening in this opening fixture.
Costa Rica-Draw is available to back at odds of 13/8 in the Double Chance market and looks a good bet, while it’s 23/20 that the two sides go in at the interval level.