World Cup 2014 Preview: Costa Rica

Mark Kolbe

RoyalBlueMersey takes a look at England's Group D opponents Costa Rica.

Managed by the experienced Jorge Luis Pinto, with legend Paulo Wanchope assisting, Costa Rica go into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as huge underdogs. Having been picked in the same group as England, Uruguay and Italy in the so called group of death, not many will fancy their chances of getting into the last 16.

Most international fans will fondly remember the Costa Rica team of Italy 1990, where they managed to reach the latter stages of the tournament, beating Scotland and Sweden in the group stage to finish second behind Brazil in Group C.  In World Cup history though, that was the best they've achieved so far. After their success in 1990, they would not appear in the World Cup again till 2002, finishing 3rd in Group C, and then four years later finishing fourth in 2006's Group A.

Having failed to make South Africa's 2010 World Cup, the national team began by seeing in a new era based on young talent such as Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell and our own Bryan Oviedo among others. The Ticos qualifying campaign began with a 2-2 draw against El Salvador, followed by a 4-0 win over Guyana courtesy of a hat trick from star striker Àlvaro Saborío. They eventually reached the fourth round only to be beaten by the United States in a bizarre match played in a literal blizzard. However, later victories over Honduras, Panama, Mexico and the United States saw the side manage to seal their place at the World Cup with two games to spare. Their eventual record in the CONCACAF was 5 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses, qualifying second behind the USA.

Arguably their star player at this summer's tournament will be Fulham's Bryan Ruiz. Despite spending last season on loan at PSV Eindhoven after failing to make an impact in England, the attacking midfielder has often shone on the international stage and continues to be a talisman for Costa Rica. Arsenal strike Joel Campbell will be best known for his performance against Manchester United in the Champions League and continues to impress while a away earning a visa, so impressive has his performances been that a return to Arsenal from his loan spell in Greece is a possibility.

The team will unfortunately be without star striker Alvaro Saborio who broke his fifth metatarsal bone in a training ground incident and also Brian Oviedo who broke his leg in January and hasn't managed to get fit in time. Regardless though, there is attacking talent in the squad, and their system of using five defenders could frustrate the more attacking talents of Uruguay, England and Italy.

Ranked just outside the top 30 sides in the world, the Central Americans will be huge underdogs in the tournament, but as their famous assistant has said, so was the side that did so well in 1990. With their desire to emulate that success, underestimating them would be perilous for their fellow group D members.

How do you think Costa Rica will fare in Group D? Vote below and share your views in the comments!

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