The experience of this World Cup couldn't really have been any more different for Costa Rica and England , and as Eduardo Mendez's men play their final group game before the second round, this fixture represents the end of the road for Iain Macintosh's Three Lions.
Eduardo Mendez on Costa Rica: Costa Rica have benefited from being one of the few teams in the World Cup that hasn’t dealt with injuries nor yellow card suspensions. All 23 players under head coach Jorge Luis Pinto are healthy and eligible to play against England. With qualification to the Round of 16 already secured, expect a few changes in the first XI. Roy Miller and Randall Brenes are tipped to start in favor of Michael Umaña and Christian Bolaños. Both will serve as like-for-like substitutions in the team’s 5-4-1: Navas - Diaz, Miller, Gonzalez, Duarte, Gamboa; Brenes, Borges, Tejeda, Ruiz; Campbell.
Iain Macintosh on England: With nothing to play for but pride, Roy Hodgson will make sweeping changes to his team. Frank Lampard will captain the side on what is likely to be his final appearance for his country, while Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley will make their first, and indeed last, starts of the tournament. England have injuries to Leighton Baines and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but no suspensions. Hodgson has promised that Steven Gerrard will play some part in the game and the Liverpool captain will review his position after going on a long holiday to think about what he’s done.
Eduardo Mendez: Only a handful of teams have had back-to-back complete performances in Brazil. Costa Rica is one of them. Los Ticos went nearly 500 minutes without conceding a goal in World Cup qualification, and that same defensive prowess is on display in Brazil. The team is yet to concede a goal from the run of play after 180 minutes on the world’s biggest stage. Qualification to the Round of 16, however, isn’t enough for Pinto and his men. The team is in Belo Horizonte seeking more than three points, they want history. Being Group D winners and securing three victories against previous World Cup champions would be just that. This is very much a motivated and inspired side ready to go toe to toe with England.
Iain Macintosh: I’ll level with you, it’s not good. A spirited performance wasn’t enough against Italy in the first fixture and a spirited performance pockmarked with cataclysmic individual errors certainly was enough against Uruguay. England have played far, far worse in tournaments and progressed further and there have certainly been a few encouraging signs for the future. Nevertheless, when you look at the performances by nations like the USA and, more pertinently, Costa Rica, it’s clear that England have failed to make the most of their assets.
WHAT THE MANAGER SAYS
Costa Rica’s Jorge Luis Pinto: “I’m not going to say how far this team can go. I only think about going and going until we cannot go further. We advanced to the second round just like we planned. Now, I’m telling the boys we have to think about a new goal and move forward.”
England’s Roy Hodgson: “I’m making sure that a group of players I personally believe have done everything they possibly could to give us some success on the field…get a chance to say, ‘I wasn’t just there for the ride.”
Eduardo Mendez: The injury to Bryan Oviedo was supposed to cripple Los Ticos. Just don’t tell that Junior Diaz. The 30-year-old didn’t just provide the assist in Costa Rica’s 1-0 victory over Italy, he stymied runs down the channel all afternoon. It’ll be his responsibility to do the same against England. Especially if its a young starlet like Raheem Sterling running at him with pace.
Iain Macintosh: Few players have excelled themselves this summer, but if you’re looking for the individual least culpable for England’s elimination, it’s probably Raheem Sterling. Excellent against Italy in the centre, marginally less so against Uruguay when shunted to the flank, his irrepressible pace and invention is something for Hodgson to cling to, assuming he doesn’t leave him on the substitute’s bench for the whole game here.
Eduardo Mendez: Costa Rica has something to play for and England doesn’t. With the motivation of chasing history and finishing atop Group D, Costa Rica should have few difficulties winning at least one half at 2.43.
Iain Macintosh: Astonishingly, given how superior they looked against both Italy and Uruguay, you can still get 4.20 on Costa Rica to win. It’s just rude not to.
Eduardo Mendez: Costa Rica 1-1 England at 7.50.
Iain Macintosh: Costa Rica are a good side and they deserve to go through. 1-0 to them at 12.50.
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