If you are pulling for the upset-minded Ticos of Costa Rica in Saturday’s Group D opener in Fortaleza, revenge is probably the first thing on your mind. And if you are rooting for Uruguay, the absence of Luis Suarez is the only story line.
Yes, the man who led the Premier League with 31 goals (10 more than the next leading goalscorer, fellow Liverpool striker and Group D foe Daniel Sturridge) will be sidelined after minor knee surgery following his club season for the ages, but La Celeste need not worry.
Uruguay packs a murderer’s row of forwards that can go right up any in the 32-nation field, even without a healthy Suarez. Edinson Cavani of Paris Saint-Germain will start Saturday and has scored more than 20 goals across club competitions in each of the last four years. Elsewhere, Christian Stuani is in form after scores in two recent World Cup warm-ups and will be using Suarez’s absence to get him some deserved playing time.
Let us not forget Diego Forlan, the second leading scoring in the two-time World Cup winner’s history, with 36 goals to Suarez’s 38. Forlan carried his team to a surprising fourth-place finish four years ago and was the rightful winner of that tournament’s Golden Ball. Now 35, Forlan has seen his form for club decline but his killer instinct wearing the sky blue, even lately, has proven nothing less than world class.
Costa Rica, who lost to Uruguay on aggregate 2-1 for the right to move on to South Africa in 2010, will try to contain them with a less-than-stellar back line on defense and Keylor Navas in goal. The keeper from Levante had a solid year in La Liga and is capable of letting the world know his name with a breakthrough performance against the group favorites.
Combine Uruguay’s quality up front with their attacking style of play and they are susceptible to counter attacks. Uruguay’s defense is not as capable as their forward’s and Costa Rica’s best players are, like Uruguay, their goal scorers. Alvaro Saborio of Real Salt Lake will be missing the tournament with a fractured foot suffered during training, but Los Ticos still have Bryan Ruiz, a proven entity in Europe, and Joel Campbell. Campbell is the most intriguing name on the roster, and after being loaned out from Arsenal the last three years, a strong trifecta of games in Brazil could see the 21-year-old with the Gunners full time next season.
The counter attacking strategy seems to be the only way for the Costa Ricans to get a result and play spoilers before group play moves on. The group’s other nation’s, England and Italy, play later on Saturday. Anything but a win for Uruguay would make it a challenge to advance to the knockout stages and even more of a daunting task to top the group. As for Costa Rica, a chance to help eliminate the team that kept them home for years earlier will be enough to inspire.