South American football oracle Tim Vickery is our Uruguay expert for Brazil 2014, and he's combined with Costa Rica guru Eduardo Mendez to bring us a preview of Saturday's clash in Fortaleza...
Tim Vickery on Uruguay: Luis Suarez continues his recovery, but it would be a surprise if he were to start against Costa Rica, in which case Edinson Cavani will be the main striker with Diego Forlan operating behind him. The doubt for coach Oscar Washington Tabarez in his 4-4-2 system is on the right side of midfield. Does he go with Gaston Ramirez, cutting in to use his booming left foot? Or Christian Stuani, more dynamic and more likely to pop up in the opposing penalty area?
Eduardo Mendez on Costa Rica: After a poor showing against Ireland, Jorge Luis Pinto’s starting XI virtually picks itself. Players like Jose Cubero, Heiner Mora and Marco Ureña didn’t impress enough to warrant a starting role against Uruguay. Mora has even been replaced by Dave Myrle on the 23-man roster after scans revealed he sustained a stress fracture in his right heel against Ireland. The most obvious and likely lineup for Costa Rica is (5-4-1): Navas - Diaz, Duarte, Gonzalez, Umaña, Gamboa, Bolaños, Borges, Tejeda, Ruiz - Campbell.
Tim Vickery on Uruguay: Uruguay warmed up with wins at home against Northern Ireland (1-0) and Slovenia (2-0). The performances were solid without being particularly inspired – which is the current Uruguay side all over. In their run to the semi-finals of the last World Cup they had less possession than their opponents in every game – but more shots. They have few pretensions to be aesthetically pleasing, but can grind out results, especially when the stakes are at their highest. Two matches in the evening cool of Montevideo are scarcely preparation for the blazing afternoon heat of Fortaleza. On the other hand, they had a chance to prepare tactically and mentally for the possible absence of star man Suarez.
Eduardo Mendez on Costa Rica: Costa Rica failed to capture a victory in either of the last two international friendlies, but the final results aren’t indicative of the team’s form. Against Japan, the same XI projected to start here were able to withstand the pressure and deployed a deadly, one-touch counterattack that allowed Los Ticos to capture a 1-0 lead. The tinkering of Jorge Luis Pinto expunged that cohesion, forcing Costa Rica to look sluggish and disoriented against Ireland. World Cup warm-ups aside, this is a team that finished second in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and have rarely looked overmatch by the opposition under Pinto.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
Uruguay’s Oscar Washington Tabarez: Tabarez reminded everyone this week of what he told the players when he took over for his second spell in charge of the national team eight years ago – "we’re not among the best, but if we form a strong group mentality we can give anyone a tough game." It is not in his make up to underestimate anyone, especially a team with the attacking pace of Costa Rica.
Costa Rica’s Jorge Luis Pinto: "We feel joy and motivation. We’re going to face three world champions and we are fearless. Costa Rica will play without fear, without fear of three powers and we would like to win."
Tim Vickery on Uruguay: Edinson Cavani. The PSG striker has often been a victim of his own spirit of sacrifice and capacity for hard work. For years he was behind Suarez and Forlan in the pecking order, and often played wide, tracking the opposing full back deep into his own half, like some box-to-box forward. Now the chance has come for Suarez to be the king of the attack. Against a team with defensive weaknesses, Uruguay will look to him to break the deadlock.
Eduardo Mendez on Costa Rica: As cultured as Joel Campbell’s left foot is, crosses from the left side of the pitch will test the strength of Uruguay’s center-back pairing. Christian Bolaños, an unknown entity at the international level, will be the man delivering those chances. His ability to provide the service for Bryan Ruiz and Campbell inside the area will dictate the deadliness of Costa Rica’s counter-attack.
Tim Vickery on Uruguay: Maxi Pereira to score at 12.00. Maxi does not score many for his country, but the right back is looking full of running – and this will be the match when Uruguay will most look to him to break forward. Costa Rica often play a back three, and Maxi could be the man to get behind the wing back and have a go on goal.
Eduardo Mendez on Costa Rica: Ball possession by Costa Rica to be under 55.5 percent at 1.80. Don’t expect Los Ticos to have much of the ball against Uruguay. Against more technical and elite competition, Jorge Luis Pinto has shown a propensity to defend with five at the back and allow one of his center-backs to spring the counter. Today will be no different. Costa Rica’s only chance of getting a result is to rely on the pace of Campbell and present him with opportunities to run at Uruguay’s aging center-backs. A consistent counter is the key to unlock those opportunities.
Tim Vickery: Uruguay 2 Costa Rica 1 8.50
Eduardo Mendez: Uruguay 2 Costa Rica 1 8.50