By Laurence Kelson
Team: Costa Rica
Nickname: Los Ticos
World Cup appearances: 4 (Best finish was quarter-finals in 2014)
World ranking: 25
Coach: Oscar Ramirez
Captain: Bryan Ruiz
Player to watch: Keylor Navas
It’s not often that a goalkeeper can be considered the star player for a team but Keylor Navas fits the bill. The Real Madrid keeper has just come off his third straight UEFA Champions League title and was named in UEFA’s Champions League squad of the season. His heroics in goal led Costa Rica to the quarter-finals in 2014, only conceding two goals in five matches and producing a series of memorable saves in a penalty shootout against Greece. Costa Rica will once again be relying on him to produce superhuman performances if they are to emulate their 2014 form.
— FEDEFUTBOL Costa Rica (@fedefutbolcrc) June 7, 2018
Costa Rica in action against England in a pre-world cup friendly. Keylor Navas in goal (bottom right).
NowUC predictor: Group stage exit
Costa Rica came second in the CONCACAF qualifying rounds but weren’t exactly blowing teams away, only winning four out of ten matches. They are going into Group E with Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland and, in such company, are likely to finish last in the group. They lack the firepower to threaten the other teams, only scoring four goals in their past six matches. Their best attacking threat is 32-year-old Bryan Ruiz who’s been struggling with injuries and form over the past year. Coach Oscar Ramirez likes to employ the 5-4-1 formation which enables for a strong defensive backline and quick counter-attacking. Although the focus is on defensive structure, the attacking prowess of their opposition is likely to prove too much and Los Ticos will say adios to Russia at the end of the group stage.