Costa Rica

World Cup Preview: Switzerland v Costa Rica

Who? Switzerland - Costa Rica
Where? Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
When? June 27, 20:00 (CET local time)

Switzerland (Yossi Medina)

Switzerland, a nice and peaceful country, was in the middle of political controversy suddenly. The goal celebrations of Xhaka and Shaqiri followed by full discussion whether they both should be banned. In the end, FIFA decided that they will be fined by 5000 Swiss Francs each.

They were not the only players to be fined. A third player joined, celebrate and was punished. Stephan Lichtsteiner joined his friends and showed his solidarity. In an action made by a captain, a leader of the team. With 102 caps, Lichtsteiner is worth to be the one who holds this title and now he hopes that he will do the best in his last World Cup.

Switzerland finds themselves once again playing against a CONCACAF team in the last matchday. Four years ago they defeated Honduras 3:0 in the last game, as they began the day with one point less from the second place. This time Switzerland will enjoy an interesting advantage, as now they are in the second place with one point more than Serbia.

With an another chance for reaching the round of 16, Switzerland can be satisfied from their performance until now. Now they need to be concentrate enough in order to prevent any slip against Costa Rica.

Costa Rica (Omri Tancman)

After two matches, Costa Rica lost its chance to qualify and now all that remains for the veterans of Costa Rica is a solid performance against Switzerland. This might not be easy at all since Costa Rica are in very bad form recently. Costa Rica have won only three of their last fourteen matches in all competitions. Moreover, they have lost eight of their last ten matches. Furthermore, they didn't score in six of their last nine appearances including their last two games in the World Cup and did not even manage a shot on target against Brazil.

It seems that there is no one to blame since the whole team is very weak. Nevertheless, Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica's captain and forward is not performing at the same level as in the previous World Cup. While in Brazil Ruiz shone and led the Costa Ricans to the quarter finals, in this campaign in Russia, Ruiz wasn't able to lead his troops to scoring ability. According to Ruiz, as he stated prior to the game against Brazil, the third game should be a win for Costa Rica.

The Costa Ricans proved already some of their defensive ability, as they managed to withstand the Brazilian pressure for 90 minutes. In order to win, Costa Rica has to score. Much of this responsibility lies on Ruiz's shoulder.

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World Cup Preview: Brazil v Costa Rica

Who? Brazil - Costa Rica
Where? Krestovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg
When? June 22, 14:00 (CET local time)

Brazil (Vitor Buratini Mendes)

Disappointment. This is the only word that can be used to describe the performance of the Brazilian team in their 2018 World Cup opener. Many expected for good football and a decent victory, but what was seen was a team that shot very badly and did not match the expectations. Neymar made a game much below average and several criticisms already appear to the team.

In order to win the next game and to stay in a good position, the influence of the manager Tite will be a key factor: he has to be fearless in the substitutions. He is an excellent coach, he has won important titles, but that does not make him clear of criticism. In the game against Switzerland, his changes were very pragmatic and none caused a real change in the course of the match. For example, two of the three substitutions were made to change the midfield and in both he switched players from the same position. Against Costa Rica, it's time for him to dare a little more: if Brazil are in a tie, why not put the team forward, putting Douglas Costa instead of Paulinho, for example? The starting lineup will be the same, except from one change - Fagner will be in the first XI insted of Danilo who got injured. This is really the best Brazil have. However, the options coming from the bench should be better chosen.

Brazil's game against Switzerland was not exactly bad: the Swiss played very well, but much more was expected from Brazil, especially by players like Neymar. During the game, he played with the ball a lot and suffered 10 fouls. The Swiss team did not let the best Brazilian player to appear and the team's creativity was compromised. Anyway, Neymar is not yet 100% recovered from his injury and we can understand that he is not yet at his best. There is still a concern with him, because at Tuesday's practice he limped away. Even so, he should be starting in the game on Friday, though, it will be a bit understandable if he would not meet the expectations.

Against Costa Rica, victory is a must, since the game against Serbia must be difficult. Anyway, the optimism on continues: Brazil have a strong and qualified squad to go far in the World Cup. However, it is necessary that Brazil will have kind of a fresh start. Brazil are capable of more and it is well known.

Costa Rica (Omri Tancman)

Costa Rica and Brazil have a long rivalry dating back to the 50’s. In fact, both teams have already played each other a couple of times in the World Cups. Their second and last meeting was in 2002 and Brazil crushed Costa Rica 5-2. One of two Costa Ricans who scored in that game was Paolo Wanchope. When asked about the upcoming game, Wanchope urged Costa Ricans players to give 100 per cent since they do not have the privilege against Brazil to lack enthusiasm and effort.

Nevertheless, Wanchope complained about the lack of a natural striker in the squad, and pointed out Marco Ureña and Joel Campbell as two players who should step up and offer some attacking ability. Against Serbia, the two strikers didn’t perform too well. Based on the analysis of “Twelve Football Analytics” both players didn’t have any influential attacking actions. Ureña, who started was even weaker than Campbell who came from the bench. Altogether, both players didn’t have any important attacking actions and only one important defensive action.

In order to have even the slightest of chances the Costa Ricans need much more contribution from their strikers. A possible solution can be to start with Campbell instead of Ureña, due to an overall better performance of Campbell against Serbia. No one expects from Costa Rica to challenge Brazil, but even a goal to remember, like Wanchope scored, can be a nice accomplishment.

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World Cup Preview: Costa Rica v Serbia

Who? Costa Rica - Serbia
Where? Cosmos Arena, Samara
When? June 17, 14:00 (CET local time)

Costa Rica (Omri Tancman)

Slowly but Surely, Costa Rica has become a significant force in Central American football. From a region dominated mainly by Mexico and USA, CONCACAF can now be seen as a federation with three important regional forces. The progress of Costa Rican football has been steady, with its fourth qualification to the World Cup out of the last five editions.

The most memorable campaign was in Brazil 2014, in the previous World Cup. Costa Rica was drawn with three former World Cup winners, Italy, England and Uruguay. Although no one considered Costa Rica for being able to present any competition, the Costa Ricans proved themselves worthy and topped the group after beating Uruguay and Italy and drawing against England. Their magical campaign ended only in quarter finals after losing to The Netherlands in a penalty shootout.

Some might say that the current appearance is just the final performance of a golden generation. This statement can be true in a way, since Costa Rica has the oldest squad in this World Cup, with an average age of 29.5. The match against Serbia confronts Costa Rica with one of the youngest teams in the tournament so it can be a good test to check if Keylor Navas and his fellow teammates are already too old for this competition. However, it is possible though that the experience of the Costa Ricans can help them overcome the young vibrant Serbians and maybe lead them to another triumph.

Serbia (Eden Roitfarb)

Serbia will face the Ticos from Costa Rica on Sunday to open Group E in a crucial match. The first place looks like a lock with Brazil the favorites to top the group, while the fourth team, Switzerland, would expect to progress as well. Long story short, the second place is up for grabs between three quality teams who all have a case to qualify further.

The Serbians come in a good mood to Samara, after thrashing Bolivia 5-1 last week, as striker Aleksandar Mitrović continued his 2018 resurrection with a hattrick and a bicycle kick assist. The Eagles enjoy a deep attacking cadre: Mitro is joined by fellow Premier League mate Dusan Tadić, Serie A journeyman Adem Ljajić and Greek league top scorer Aleksandar Prijović. Additionally, the defense is anchored by the experienced Branislav Ivanović and Aleksandar Kolarov.

Yet, the most interesting part is the midfield: Luka Milivojević comes off a good season with Crystal Palace, Nemanja Matić is reliable as always, but Serbia’s biggest hope is Sergej Milinković-Savić. SMS, as he is often referred to, had a breakout season in Lazio and is heavily linked to join Manchester United. Although the team qualified impressively to the World Cup, SMS was barely used by coach Slavoljub Muslin, who was also criticized for playing defensive football. These two talking points were allegedly behind Muslin’s surprise sacking in October. He was replaced in the helm by former defender Mladen Krstajić, who has stated that “Milinkovic-Savic proved he can be counted on and is bound to become the backbone of this squad”.

Clearly, the Serbs have high-class individuals and potential. However, recent tournaments show that these players struggle to show unitedness or glue together. Serbia’s biggest challenge would be on the mental and character aspects and these might determine their fate in Russia.

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World Cup Nostalgics: Best 5 Repeats at the Group Stage

The World Cup always brings us the feelings of great memories. Many games during the group stage will remind an old-fashioned World Cup clashes with the same teams. Here are some of these best repeats.

Sweden - Germany
1958 Semifinals 3:1 / 2018 Group F

In 1958, Germany was the reigning World Champions and they were two wins away from winning the title once again. 1:0 lead by Germany didn't made any change for the hosts feeling. Sweden managed to equalize during the first half and scored twice in the last with goals of Gunnar Gren and Kurt Hamrin. Sweden made history and qualified for their only final in the history. Can Sweden upset Germany once again?

Morocco - Portugal
1986 Group Stage 3:1 / 2018 Group B

In hot summer day at Guadalajara, Morocco and Portugal met while they knew that the winner will qualify for the next stage. Portugal were the favourites, but they didn't believe that Morocco will be in one of its best matches ever. Abderrazak Khairi scored a brace in the first half and Abdelkrim Merry added one more. The Atlas Lions won and Portugal found themselves being eliminated too early.
Portugal are once again on the lead, but will it be enough to defeat Morocco?

Brazil - Costa Rica
1990 Group Stage 1:0 / 2018 Group E

Costa Rica World Cup debut was a memorable campaign with wins against Scotland and Sweden and reaching the knockout stage. Nevertherless, one of its well known performances was actually at the defeat 0:1 against Brazil. In this match Costa Rica played with an unusual black and white shirts. The local crowd in the mythical Delle Alpi in Turin thought it a gesture for the local team, Juevetus, and it was enough to make Costa Rica as one of the most beloved team in the tournament.
May Costa Rica have another performance that will be enough to get support?

Argentina - Nigera
1994 Group Stage 2:1 / 2018 Group D

Argentina and Nigeria will meet for the fifth time in World Cup group stage, but none of the previous matches was as amazing as the first meeting in 1994. An early lead with a goal scored by Samson Siasia made the Argentinian a bit shockes. Only Claudio Caniggia could save the day for the Albiceleste and he scored twich before the half time whistle. These goals gave Argentina the win, but later both of the teams qualified for the knockout stage.
In 1994 they qualified together and it happened once again in 2014. What will be in 2018?

Spain - Portugal
2010 Round of 16 1:0 / 2018 Group B

Another Portuguese lost, this time against the eventual World Cup winners in that year, Spain. The only goal scored by David Villa was enough for a win in the Iberian Peninsula derby and to qualify for the quarterfinals. The interesting name in the list is Portugal manager in this match, Carlos Queiroz. In 2018, he will make a double repeat while he will meet Spain and Portugal as the head coach of Iran.
With tons of emotion, what will be the end of the Queiroz-Portugal-Spain trio in the next World Cup?

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World Cup Warm-up: England v Costa Rica

Interestingly, Costa Rica has a very good record against British national teams in 2018. On March 23rd, Costa Rica defeated Scotland 1-0, and on June 3rd, Costa Rica defeated Northern Ireland 3-0. It is possible that the Costa Ricans feel comfortable on British soil due to the fact that some of the most important players in their squad have strong connection to British football. To name a few, Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica’s captain, had a spell in Fulham, Joel Campbell is still registered as an Arsenal player and Cristian Gamboa, the experienced right back, has played in West Bromwich Albion between 2014 and 2016.

But from all Costa Rican players, maybe the one with the strongest ties to British football is Bryan Oviedo. Oviedo was one of the most important players for Everton between 2012 and 2017 before his move to Sunderland where he currently plays. In a way, the upcoming match against England is a closure for Oviedo.

On January 25th, 2014 Oviedo broke his leg during a FA Cup match while playing for Everton. This injury made him miss Costa Rica’s best campaign ever, in which they almost reached the Semi Finals of the World Cup in Brazil, when the Netherlands eliminated them only after a penalty shootout.

Oviedo is fit and is part of the final squad of Costa Rica for Russia 2018. The upcoming match against England can present an opportunity for Oviedo to start his small journey towards private redemption on British soil, towards maybe a possible reproduction of Costa Rica’s sensational campaign from 2014, on Russian land.

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