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2014 World Cup team preview: Costa Rica

Jun 2, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

CostaRicaFINAL

Getting to know… Costa Rica: Their 1990 visit to the Round of 16 is well behind them, as is their FIFA-best No. 17 rating. Costa Rica makes a return to the World Cup after an absence in 2010, so will we see the team that’s beaten Paraguay and Mexico in the past year, or the one that’s been skunked by Chile, Australia and South Korea to the tune of 6-0 in friendlies across the year’s end and beginning?

Record in qualifying: Qualified second to the United States in CONCACAF with a 5W-3D-2L record. Went 5-0 at home, with road losses to the US and Honduras.

What group are they in? Yeesh. Group D with Uruguay, England and Italy.

Game schedule: Group D

14 June, 16:00, Fortaleza – Uruguay vs. Costa Rica
20 June, 13:00, Recife – Italy vs. Costa Rica
24 June, 13:00, Belo Horizonte– Costa Rica vs. England

Star player: Bryan Ruiz

It has to be the captain, especially with Alvaro Saborio breaking his foot in training last week. Ruiz spent last season on loan to PSV Eindhoven from Fulham, and fills a bit of a Clint Dempsey role for Ticos. He can be an attacking midfielder, fly in from the flanks or be a classic second striker.

Ruiz has shone for his country despite some struggles to make an impact at Fulham. He’s scored all over the continent, otherwise, and tends to be a bit of a talisman for Costa Rica.

Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto

The 61-year-old Colombian has also led his native team as well as myriad clubs. Pinto also led Costa Rica in 2004-05, but has a mighty task ahead of him in a group as deadly as any in Brazil.

Secret weapon: Underdog status

The Costa Rican team has to know that, if possible at World Cup, teams might overlook them in a group with Italy, England and Uruguay. Yes, perhaps Costa Rica can slip under the radar and a shock win over a recuperating Luis Suarez and Uruguay to open the tournament is a necessity.

Prediction: Costa Rica finishes at the bottom of Group D.

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