One team wants to finish first in the group, and the other just wants to win a game. Such is the storyline of England against Costa Rica in World Cup play.
Costa Rica have made the round of 16, but the question remains which team will they face. If they beat England in the final Group D showdown on Tuesday, Costa Rica would likely face Ivory Coast in the first knockout round game. If Costa Rica can’t win and slip to second, they still get into the round of 16 but have a big challenge with Colombia ahead.
For England, a disastrous World Cup is near an end after the team lost the first two games to Italy and Uruguay. If England lose this contest, they will go down in record as the country’s worst World Cup performance ever.
That’s not the legacy Frank Lampard wants to have in what is likely his final World Cup game ever, if not his finale on the international soccer stage. Lampard said he will make a decision on his playing future when the team returns to England from Brazil. For now, Lampard will serve as the team’s captain.
Can England pull off the win on the last day of group play?
Consider this. Costa Rica have clinched their first round of 16 appearance since 1990, so manager Jorge Luis Pinto is resting some key players to get them fresh for knockout play. Costa Rica won’t put Bryan Ruiz or Joel Campbell in harm’s way in what is essentially a meaningless game as it is.
Ruiz and Campbell combined for 24 goals during this competition period, including all World Cup games and qualifiers, so a huge chunk of scoring will be missing from action.
It is conceivable England might play some younger talent during this match and perhaps audition players for a possible run at 2018. Will that motivate some players to go out with a bang and perhaps earn spots on the World Cup roster four years ahead of time?
Prediction: Costa Rica 2, England 1
As much as fans would love to see England rebound in their final group match of this World Cup, the team will have to bottom out before they get better. Yes, some key starters will be out of action for Costa Rica, but a half-strength team from this country is still better than no strength at all.
Look for Costa Rica to finish 3-0 in pool play and enter the knockout round as the first-place team in Group D.