Costa Rica vs. England: Another Team Fails to Punish the Ticos' High Line

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 24, 2014

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 24: Adam Lallana of England is challenged by Oscar Duarte of Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Costa Rica and England at Estadio Mineirao on June 24, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Costa Rica and England played to an entertaining 0-0 draw on Tuesday, ensuring the former finished top of FIFA World Cup 2014 Group D.

Celso Borges hit the bar with a free-kick and Daniel Sturridge missed a gilt-edged chance later on. It's also arguable the Three Lions were denied a penalty in the first half.


Formations & XIs


Costa Rica played their usual 3-5-2 formation but made two changes to the side who beat Italy and Uruguay. Randall Brenes (LM) and Roy Miller (LCB) were drafted in.

England converted back to the 4-3-3 that looked so promising during qualifying, with Ross Barkley the most advanced of the midfield three, Frank Lampard deep and Jack Wilshere moderating.


Good Pressing

Both sides pressed very well throughout the first half, stopping the opponents' playmakers from stringing together long passing phases or periods of sustained pressure.

Barkley and Wilshere were full of energy and stayed goal-side of Yeltsin Tejeda and Celso Borges; the same two tried to stay goal-side going the other way.

It made for a nitty-gritty opening 10 minutes, with the only genuine attacks coming when the Ticos switched the ball quickly to their marauding wing-back Junior Diaz on the left.

England tried to build most of their attacks down the left through Adam Lallana, but Luke Shaw struggled under pressure on the ball and the area quickly became clogged.


Change Places

Twenty-five minutes into the match, Lallana and James Milner switched wings to try and find more joy.

Milner was all alone on the right but didn't have the pace to punish Costa Rica's high line; Lallana, the quicker of the two, was asked to try and punish it.

Lampard regista; Lallana & Sturridge run in behind.
Lampard regista; Lallana & Sturridge run in behind.@stighefootball

With the right player in place to take advantage of a weakness in Roy Miller, Lampard began hitting long through-balls over the top of the Ticos' defence. Lallana broke through immediately, then got in a further two times inside the next 10 minutes.

This is where England began to assert control over the game, and with the Ticos recycling resources to stop Lallana, Milner found more joy on the left one versus one with Cristian Gamboa.



Daniel Sturridge had three chances to win the game for England but somehow emerged from the game without a goal.

In a game of exceptionally fine margins—Borges' free-kick and Sturridge's chances were the only clear-cut chances on show—it was a combination of profligacy and the exceptional Keylor Navas who made the difference on the day.

Costa Rica secured top spot in Group D, a near-unfathomable outcome if considered pre-tournament, with this clean sheet and England restored a small amount of pride.