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World Cup

  • June 14, 2014
  • • 20:00
  • • Estádio Governador Plácido Aderaldo Castelo, Fortaleza, Ceará
  • Referee: F. Brych
  • • Attendance: 58679
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Uruguay-Costa Rica Preview: Tabarez to rest Suarez for opening encounter

Uruguay-Costa Rica Preview: Tabarez to rest Suarez for opening encounter

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The Liverpool striker is set to be rested to aid his recovery from a knee injury but his team-mates should still secure a win

By Robin Bairner in Fortaleza

World Cup specialists Uruguay head into their opening match of the 2014 tournament against Costa Rica at Castelao, Fortaleza with hopes of improving on the third-placed finish they achieved in South Africa four years ago and replicating the 1950 success at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana that stunned Brazil.

Oscar Tabarez’s side, however, head into the tournament under something of a cloud, with star striker Luis Suarez rated doubtful for much of the group stage. A knee injury means the 27-year-old, who top scored in the Conmebol qualifiers with 11 strikes and the Premier League last season with 31 goals, is extremely unlikely to play any part against the Central Americans and may even miss the second fixture against England next week.

Uruguay will likely be at full strength otherwise. Despite Suarez’s absence, they boast a side of formidable experience, with Diego Forlan, who missed training on Wednesday due to a slight illness, expected to lend the benefit of his 110 caps to a unit that has not changed greatly since their impressive campaign four years ago. Indeed, it is fitting that such an unaltered side should be led by Tabarez, who is the longest serving coach at the World Cup with eight years’ experience in his role.

For Costa Rica, who will be at full strength aside from full-back Heiner Mora - who has a broken heel - and experienced forward Alvaro Saborio, there are mixed omens. While they have won two of their three previous World Cup openers, they have lost their three previous matches against South American opposition and have a lamentable recent record at the finals, where they are on a four-game losing streak.

At this level their defence has been particularly fallible against quality opponents, with nine goals conceded last time they qualified in Germany 2006, while Uruguay - who they have never beaten - accounted for them at the play-off stages prior to South Africa. To make matters worse, their recent form has been no better, with four defeats in their last six games overall.

If they are to progress past the group stage for just a second time - having reached the last 16 at Italia 90 - this is an area they will inevitably have to tighten up. But with Uruguay, Italy and England all predominantly counterattacking sides, this could give them just a little cause for optimism.

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Field Report
Reader's Predictions
Top 3 Predictions
Players to Watch
Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani
Position: Striker
Squad Number: 7
Games Goals YC RC
4 1 0 0

With Luis Suarez likely missing, Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani will have to shoulder more of the offensive burden. Diego Forlan may have scored three of Uruguay’s last five goals at the World Cup, but he is past his prime and it will be towards the 27-year-old that Oscar Tabarez looks for inspiration. In the Confederations Cup last year, he was on target three times as Uruguay finished fourth, though he started that competition slowly and cannot afford to do likewise this summer.

K. Navas
K. Navas
Position: Goalkeeper
Squad Number: 1
Games Goals YC RC
5 0 1 0

Los Ticos are liable to come under a great deal of defensive scrutiny and boast no players of great note in their rearguard. It will therefore fall upon goalkeeper Keylor Navas to have a strong competition. The Levante goalkeeper had a stunning season in La Liga, and such was his level that he was considered every bit as good as more celebrated shot-stoppers such as Thibault Courtois. If he can replicate such form, Costa Rica will be an altogether tougher opponent.

Prediction

Uruguay’s experience should be enough to secure three points in a match they really need to win ahead of more formidable challenges. However, Tabarez’s side operate best when playing on the back foot, so playing unfancied opponents will not suit them. Expect a tight match, but the poor recent displays of the Central Americans will ultimately continue.

Editor's Prediction

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