Group D’s fifth fixture will be played between the surprise package of the tournament, Costa Rica and the regular underperformers, England on Tuesday June 24. This game should be an interesting one because of England’s disappointing performances and the coach Roy Hogdson’s stubborn decision to play a set team instead of tinkering slightly when it was clear that the tactics were not working.
Costa Rica have been the giant-killers this tournament and in a group which was touted to be ‘Group of Death’ everybody thought about them as the fodder for the other teams.
But if big name players, status and history mattered in football there wouldn’t be any good football left to watch. Costa Rica do of course have good players in Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz and Christian Bolanos. Also their coach, Jorge Luis Pinto’s tactics were spot on against Uruguay and Italy.
Aggressive pressing and excellent work rate displayed by all the players throughout the pitch have been the characteristics of the Costa Ricans. Also, playing in sub-tropical climates have been to their advantage compared to the likes of England and Italy in the Group D.
England’s squad is mostly made up of players selected from the top teams in the English Premier league, a team mostly of superstars like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney.
But not being able to perform as a team and strange team setups by Hogdson have been criticised a lot by the media back home.
Playing the Liverpool pairing of Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson has been the main concern in the past two matches. The possession and one-touch football based Liverpool team had players who could respond to the passes by both these players, but selecting Rooney as the link between midfield and attack has been the biggest blunder.
Rooney is a top-class footballer, but the coach needed to accept that he’s not ready yet to play that role, instead drafting in Jack Wilshere (he’s had an outing against Italy as a substitute) as the advanced midfielder woukd be sensible.
He is comfortable on the ball and his ability to beat the opponent to create space for himself is a great asset. If we look back at the last year’s friendly against Brazil, where he was played in the advanced midfield role he did very well to prove that he’s ready to step up.
The game is a dead rubber for England as they have already been knocked out of the tournament, but Costa Rica will be aiming to win or draw this match to qualify as the table-toppers. Considering Costa Rica’s recent form, a win or a draw is a possibility.
England will be looking to win a match before packing their bags but do they have the wherewithal to survive a dead game before the inevitable media-bashing back home?
Hodgson has a task at hand to bring balance to his midfield which is disoriented; who knows playing a team which has players tailored to the system might give a favourable result.
Here’s an interesting one, English punter Scott Jardine is the only one in the whole of the UK to put some money on Costa Rica to win all its matches in the group stage of the tournament, something that was at 600/1 at the start of the competition. He stands to get richer by £3000 if England lose!
Drawn game: 29/10 (bet365)
Rickie Lambert to be anytime scorer: 13/5 (Paddy Power)
Over 2.5 goals in the game: 10/11 (Coral)