Costa Rica (National Football)

Costa Rica's World Cup Hopes High After Massive Win Against Italy

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 20: Giancarlo Gonzalez of Costa Rica celebrates after defeating Italy 1-0 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Italy and Costa Rica at Arena Pernambuco on June 20, 2014 in Recife, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Karla Villegas GamaFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2014

Costa Rica has walked through the "Group of Death" with more life than anyone. Los Ticos are the only side from Group D who have secured a spot in the knockout stage after a key victory against Andrea Pirlo and company.

By defeating Italy, Jorge Luis Pinto's boys did what no other CONCACAF squad had ever done. It also meant three crucial points that propelled them to the round of 16.

Sure they have amazed the world with their pace and power through the flanks, but it is also true that they have some issues to attend.

 

Strengths

Los Ticos take advantage of the few opportunities they create. Against Uruguay they scored three times out of eight goal opportunities they had.

The right flank was key. Joel Campbell and Oscar Duarte's goals came from that side, while Marcos Urena also took advantage of his speed through the right to surprise the Uruguayan defense. 

Speed was fundamental. According to FIFA.com, Cristian Gamboa was the fastest player of the Costa Ricans as his top speed was 30.13 km/h. 

Gamboa set in motion the play of Los Ticos' first goal, which Campbell eventually finished. He put Martin Caceres in distress time and time again.

Bryan Ruiz and Christian Bolanos alone created half of the opportunities. One of them was successfully completed when Oscar Duarte put the ball away with a header after a fantastic set piece.

With Italy the story was pretty much the same. Costa Rica created nine goal opportunities and converted one.

That goal was the typical play by the Central Americans. A long cross to the second post which a key man, in this case Bryan Ruiz, netted.

Costa Rica understood that they had to press the Europeans in the midfield. They cut Italy's routes and that derailed them. Cesare Prandelli's side couldn't figure out a way to deliver depth and creativity.

Los Ticos have several attacking options thanks to Campbell, Ruiz, Urena and even Duarte.

 

Weaknesses

The ball possession has been an issue for Costa Rica from the beginning of the tournament. 

FIFA.com reported that Uruguay was superior in that area, with a total of 56 percent of the ball. Something similar happened against Gli Azzurri, with 58 percent.

One could think that allowing the rival to have the ball might be part of the strategy, but for Costa Rica it is very dangerous, they leave a lot of spaces from where they can be very vulnerable.

It's true that Giancarlo Gonzalez has kept the back line organized, but pushing their rivals in the center of the pitch with so much encouragement can also lead to disaster.

Pinto needs to work harder in the midfield to secure ball possession. Jose Cubero was like a ghost against Italy and missed half of the passes he sent.

Good news is that Celso Borges was sharp. That helped, but still he needs support.

 

 

Verdict

So far, so good. Costa Rica have played with intelligence and that's what has given them two impeccable results.

They will face England, who have nothing left to lose, hoping to secure the first spot of Group D in order to avoid Colombia in the knockout stage.

Whether it happens or not, they have already made quite an impression and have shown that they can compete head-to-head with any squad.

If they make the necessary adjustments, they can very well reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

All advance stats appear courtesy of Squawka.com, unless otherwise noted.

 

Follow @ karlitsv

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