Prior to the start of proceedings in Group D, most debate centred around which two out of England, Italy and Uruguay would progress into the World Cup’s latter stages. However, underdogs Costa Rica blew these discussions out of the water and created a whole new dimension to what already promised to be an absorbing section.
Trailing at half-time against Uruguay, few would have predicted the Central Americans would emerge victorious from their opening fixture, setting up the very realistic possibility of defeating the odds to emerge from the group. Joel Campbell excelled throughout and blasted home an emphatic equaliser to stake his claim for a shot at being part of Arsene Wenger’s plans for next season, and could prove a thorn in Italy’s side in Recife on Friday.
Should Costa Rica get out of Group D it would be a huge achievement considering the calibre of their opposition, and the first time they have reached the knockout stages of the World Cup since they did so on Italian soil in 1990. The Azzurri meanwhile are aiming to book their place in the last 16 before what could be a tricky final game against Uruguay, with Mario Balotelli leading the line following his winner against England.
The fitness of Luis Suarez remains unclear, after he remained on the bench when Uruguay were hunting an equaliser for the best part of half an hour against Costa Rica, but seems to have trained well since. His Coach Oscar Tabarez is keeping his cards close to his chest, yet warned against placing too much pressure on the Liverpool forward. “If he plays we must consider the possibility that he’s not as well as he was during the Premier League,” he said, “but even when not 100% he is someone who can give a lot to his team.”
England will be wary of a man who pertains to be aware of the weaknesses in their defence, and must limit the contributions of Suarez and Edinson Cavani. The defensive performance against Italy was not particularly promising, and despite some encouraging second half possession, the Three Lions must improve greatly on their showing if they are to harbour any hopes of progression.
So often in major tournaments England have failed miserably in attempting to keep the ball, which has invariably contributed to their downfall. The problem now is figuring out what to do with this possession in the final third against a Uruguay side that is marshalled by Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin, yet perceived to be susceptible in a similar manner to Roy Hodgson’s men.
Both countries are desperate for victory after their opening defeats, particularly considering their game takes place before the other Group D fixture. England will be wary of facing a Costa Rican side still in with a chance of progression come the final round of games, while the Italians will be up for Uruguay.
The most important game now though is the next one, which is surely a must win for England, and likewise for Suarez and his team.