It’s only Day 3 of the World Cup, and already the 2014 edition of soccer’s biggest tournament is taking on a recurring theme. So far, it has been the tournament of surprises.
The latest came in Fortaleza as Uruguay, a semifinalist four years ago in South Africa, found themselves on the wrong side of a 3-1 decision against lightly regarded Costa Rica in their Group D fixture Saturday.
While the Ticos have always been regarded as a tricky foe to navigate, their performance against the Uruguayans was nothing short of superb.
Joel Campbell, the skilled forward who entered this tournament at the tender age of 21, came through with a breakout performance that must have his Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger taking a hard look at him for next season’s Premier League campaign. Utilizing his combination of size and speed, Campbell expertly carved his way through the likes of Diego Godin, Diego Lugano and the rest of the Uruguay defense to score a highlight-reel goal just after halftime that evened matters 1-1.
From there, the Costa Ricans took control of the contest, getting additional markers from Oscar Duarte and Marco Urena to complete their efforts against a demoralized Uruguay team.
For Costa Rica, the victory is their biggest on the world stage and gives them some momentum heading into their next contest against perennial world power Italy on June 20 in Recife.
On the other end of the ledger stands coach Oscar Tabarez and Uruguay, who entered this competition ranked 7th in the latest FIFA World Rankings and a trendy pick to make another deep World Cup run.
Much has been made of the injury to Cristiano Ronaldo and how it may affect a Portugal team that relies so heavily on their star to provide both leadership and goal scoring. It now seems that Uruguay is in the same boat with Luis Suarez.
The goal scoring machine with a penchant for the dramatic briefly warmed up against the Ticos, but never entered the game even when it became clear Uruguay was in dire need of his services. Tabarez will no doubt be grilled with questions regarding the fitness of Suarez ahead of Uruguay’s next game with the English in Sao Paulo on June 19.
Even with his knee surgery completed just over three weeks ago, it would be a shock not to see Suarez replace Diego Forlan in the starting 11 against England. Simply put, the Uruguayans lack playmaking and flair without Suarez. Costa Rica took full advantage of his absence, and for better or worse, it now appears Uruguay has little choice but to roll the dice with Suarez and his gimpy knee.
As for the Costa Ricans, anything now seems possible. Uruguay came into the tournament the highest rated team in Group D, and with one impressive victory already under their belt, the Ticos are free to take aim at both Italy and England in coming days.
The World Cup often brings with it a fair share of breakout stars, and it looks as though Campbell, who spent this past season on loan with Olympiacos, is ready to state his case on the world stage. Whoever is next will almost certainly raise a few eyebrows.
After all, the World Cup is already full of surprises.