England’s World Cup group could have been more difficult, but it certainly could have been easier. Tough fixtures against Italy and Uruguay will sort the men from the boys before their final group game against Costa Rica – a team that Roy Hodgson will certainly have to do some research on.
While Uruguay and Italy have showcased their ability repeatedly on the World stage, Costa Rica will be making just their fourth World Cup Finals appearance ever.
The two teams will face each other on Tuesday 24th June in Belo Horizonte, a venue where England suffered a humiliating 1-0 defeat at the hands of the United States way back in 1950. Just an hour’s flight time from Rio, the Three Lions will be eager to avoid such an embarrassing defeat once more.
But who could help Costa Rica stun the World and provide a surprise win over Roy Hodgson’s men? Or even test England’s finest? Here are three players that could be a threat in the red and blue of Costa Rica.
The Fulham midfielder may be well known to the likes of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, England’s likely centre-back partnership, but this doesn’t mean he won’t be a threat. Ruiz has been a creative spark for the Cottagers despite their tough times, creating three goals this Premier League season, as well as scoring one of his own. And with new manager Rene Meulensteen now at the reins, Ruiz could find himself being a key player during Fulham’s attempt to come back after a poor start to the season.
The playmaker had a big role to play during Costa Rica’s qualification campaign, scoring three goals to help his nation surprise most pundits and automatically qualify ahead of Mexico, who had to go through the play-offs. An underdog on paper, Costa Rica have shown they can be a force, winning all five of their home games in the fourth qualifying round. The fourth round was where the most important fixtures happened, and when Ruiz stepped up, scoring all three of his goals during this stage.
Ruiz has shown he can be a tricky customer in the Premier League, and will be eager to show his ability on the biggest of stages. Full of tricks and boasting a fantastic eye for an assist, the playmaker could haunt England during what is supposed to be their easiest game. But we all know that the Three Lions don’t do brilliantly against the “smaller” teams (just look at the match against Algeria in 2010), and Ruiz could be ready to pounce on any English complacency.
Chances are that unless you are an Everton fan, you may have heard very little about Bryan Oviedo. The Toffees’ left back has stormed onto the Premier League stage, taking advantage of England left-back Leighton Baines’ absence with a foot injury. A goal and assist on his first start this season when playing against Stoke was followed by the late winner at Old Trafford, and the assist for the equaliser at the Emirates. Out of nowhere the 23-year-old has suddenly taken a grip on the league and shown what he is all about.
The Costa Rican has been slowly introduced to English football, but now under the management of Roberto Martinez, Oviedo has excelled in a run of games. He has shown great pace and trickery, as well as fantastic accurate feet, whether it be for a pass or shot. Leighton Baines could be looking across the field as his club team mate threatens the English right-back in Belo Horizonte.
Who knows how England will go into this game. They may already be out, may have qualified or need victory to secure their place in the last 16. What we do know is that Costa Rica won’t make it easy for them. Oviedo’s pace and trickery on the left hand side will cause issues for England, as it has plenty of teams in the Premier League so far this season.
A strong, clinical finisher, any England fans that watch MLS will be rightly aware of Saborio’s threat. The 31-year-old scored 56 goals in the last four seasons over in the States, including the opener in the MLS Cup final against Kansas City. A true finisher, however he did blast a penalty over the bar during the marathon shootout held during that final (an experience a few England players know about.)
Saborio scored eight goals in Costa Rica’s qualifying campaign, the same amount as USA international Clint Dempsey. Those eight goals included the winner against Mexico, and a hat-trick against Guyana in the previous qualifying round. He also scored a hat-trick in the MLS this season against New York Red Bulls, proving he knows how to score a goal, or three!
Often a poacher, Saborio shows he has that inner ability to score goals, whether it be with his head or feet. With Oviedo and Ruiz feeding him, the experienced forward could surprise the England keeper and millions of Three Lions fans.