The 2014 World Cup surprise package Costa Rica are already through to the next round, but they might need one point from the final group fixture against England in order to remain in the first position. On the other hand, another disappointing campaign is drawing to a close for the Three Lions, who should at least try and record a win at tournament finals.
Placed in the same group as three former World Cup winners and sides tipped by many to reach the final stages of the tournament, Costa Rica were considered major underdogs in Group D. Almost nobody outside the national team believed Los Ticos would be able to qualify for the knockout stages, with four defeats in six friendly games a major cause for concern. However, Jorge Luis Pinto’s side left all that behind once the tournament started and they produced a stunning counter-attacking performance to record a 3-1 triumph over Uruguay in their opening fixture. Once again, people were saying Costa Rica would not be able to repeat such performance, but they turned on the style to beat Italy as well and thus secured their place in the knockout stages, eliminating England in the process and leaving the Azzurri and Uruguay to battle for the second qualifying berth. Having virtually secured the first place in the group, boss Jorge Luis Pinto is widely tipped to rest his key men ahead of the Last 16 stage clash, with Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz expected to miss out.
Once again the high hopes England harboured before the tournament started were dashed mere two games into the tournament finals, with narrow defeats to Italy and Uruguay ending team’s qualifying dream. And while the Three Lions did show some promise in the process, their inexperience told when facing the Azzurri and La Celeste, with some defensive mistakes proving very costly. This is likely to be the end of the road for the likes of Gerrard, Lampard and possibly few more players, and the Costa Rica game will be a perfect opportunity to see some talented youngsters in action who should go on to become pillars of the national team in years to come. Roy Hodgson has promised to give as many fringe players as possible a chance to shine, with Frank Lampard possibly set to make his final appearance for the national team. The likes of Forster, Shaw, Barkley, Wilshere and Lambert are expected to start as well, but crocked Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is unlikely to feature.
Guards will be down when high-flying Costa Rica face out-of-sorts England in the final group fixture and while the final outcome is difficult to predict with so many star players missing, chances are we will see a high-scoring affair where neither side will be paying a great deal of attention on the defensive phase.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 4/5