Before the 2014 World Cup began, many people saw Costa Rica as being destined to finish bottom of a tough-looking group, but as it has transpired, they may well finish top and are developing into one of the stories of the tournament. Costa Rica beat Uruguay in their first game, and now, have overcome the odds once again by beating Italy 1-0.
So, how does a team like Costa Rica compete with infinitely more talented teams? Well, they work hard, they play as a team, they make the most of the talent they do have and they follow the manager’s gameplan to a tee. It’s fantastic to watch and many teams in the tournament could really learn a thing or two from this Costa Rica team.
Against Italy, they put on a tactical masterclass in reducing the effect of Italy’s star man, Andrea Pirlo. In Italy’s first game against England, Pirlo was very influential and England were unable to stop him from dictating the game. In this game, though, Costa Rica were able to limit Pirlo’s influence by getting two and three men around him at all times, and cutting out the passing lanes into him when he was looking to try and get on the ball.
With Pirlo unable to get on the ball as much as Italy ideally wanted, Daniele De Rossi was forced to do more of the playmaking that Pirlo usually does and, as you would expect, the results were nowhere near as effective. Costa Rica also pressed very high and the work rate they put in to press the Italy back-four, crowd Pirlo out of the game, and rush the remaining midfielders of the Azzurri was exemplary.
Pressing so high, Costa Rica played a very high defensive line themselves, and although they were playing with fire at times, they managed to catch Italy offside a total of 11 times, so it was certainly no fluke that they never got caught out in that area. It was an effective tactical gameplan by the Costa Rica manager, Jorge Luis Pinto, and it was impressively carried out by his players on the pitch.
To carry it out, though, took a lot of hard work and commitment and that’s what it takes sometimes to level the playing field when you’re competing against a more talented team. Costa Rica is officially through to the knockout stages now, but if they continue with the same levels of commitment, work rate and tactical acumen as they have shown in the first two games, then they’ll be a dangerous foe for anybody in the second round.