World Cup 2014 Analysis - Group C: Will Costa Rica Overcome Group of Death?
The World Cup is a major showpiece for some of the biggest soccer teams around the globe. However, one of the highlights of the tournament is watching how some of the relative "unknowns" fare against the bigger powers. Costa Rica enters this tournament as one of this lesser-known soccer nations and actually fits the aforementioned description of a small country taking on big powers as it will face Italy, England and Uruguay in the group stage. Can the underdog seize the spotlight from the aforementioned World Cup champion nations?
As expected Costa Rica does not have a wealthy World Cup history to marvel about. This is just the fourth time in the tournament's history that the nation competes in the tournament. While most of the appearances have been quick ones, the team did manage to finish in the top 16 in its first every World Cup back in 1990. That year, Costa Rica made a huge splash by finishing second in a group that included the likes of Brazil, Scotland and Sweden. The team won two and lost once in the group round. In the first knockout stage, Costa Rica was destroyed 4-1 by Czechoslovakia. Since then, the team has not managed to get out of the group round.
In its last World Cup back in 2006, the team finished with zero points in a group that included Germany, Ecuador and Poland.
How did they get here?
The team started off its qualifying campaign in the second round of CONCACAF's group stage. The team battled with Mexico, Guyana and El Salvador and finished with 10 points in six games.
The second place finished qualified the squad for the hexagonal stage in which the top three automatically qualified and the fourth side was forced to compete for its tournament life with the AFC's wild card team. Costa Rica breezed through this round with five wins, three draws and just two losses. All five of Costa Rica's wins came at home including a pair of dominating victories over Mexico and the USA. The team did struggle away from Costa Rica and did not pull off a single victory on the road. At the end of the round, Costa Rica sat in second place with 18 points and automatically qualified for the World Cup.
Alvaro Saborio is the third leading scoring in Costa Rica's team history. He has 32 goals in 93 appearances and put up eight goals in qualifying for the tournament; five of those goals came in a huge win over Guyana in the group round. At 32-years-old, this is likely his final tournament with the team.
Midfielder Christian Bolanos is a major playmaker in Costa Rica's midfielder and currently plies his trade in Copehagen. Goalie Keyler Navas will be crucial to Costa Rica's success as he will likely be facing a plethora of shots throughout the tournament. Forward Bryan Ruiz will also be essential to the team's attack; he has 12 goals in 61 games.
Can they get out of the group?
Costa Rica has never played England and has only done battle with Italy once in its history. The rivalry with Uruguay is a bit more extensive as the sides have met 10 times. Out of these 10 games against its Group D rivals, Costa Rica has never won a single one. The team has a record of three draws and seven losses against Uruguay and lost the only meeting it had with Italy back in 1994. Couple those facts with Costa Rica's World Cup record of three wins, one draw and six losses and you can probably figure out how well this team is slated to do.
Can they win it all?
Definitely not. Anything can happen, but Costa Rica will struggle get a single victory in the group stage. At this level any draw would be a huge moral win, but expecting this team finish higher than fourth place in Group D is virtually unfathomable.