Uruguay enter the 2014 World Cup with considerable expectations after their surprising run to the semifinals in 2010, while Costa Rica, in their fourth World Cup, will be looking to get out of the group stage for the first time since 1990.
World Cup specialist Uruguay heads into its opening match of the 2014 tournament against Costa Rica at Castelao, Fortaleza with hopes of improving on the third-place 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, heads 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 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, it boasts 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 the 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, which will be at full strength aside from fullback Heiner Mora, who has a broken heel and experienced forward Alvaro Saborio, there are mixed omens. While they have won two of its three previous World Cup openers, they have lost its three previous matches against South American opposition and has a lamentable recent record at the finals, where it is on a four-game losing streak. At this level its defense has been particularly fallible against quality opponents, with nine goals conceded last time it qualified in Germany 2006.
To make matters worse, recent form has been no better, with four defeats in its last six games overall. If the Ticos are to progress past the group stage for just a second time, having reached the last 16 at the 1990 World Cup, 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.
Uruguay won the only previous World Cup held in Brazil, defeating the hosts in the final in 1950.
Luis Suarez was the top scorer in the South American World Cup qualifiers (11 goals). He had the most shots on target in the last World Cup (15).
Diego Forlan has scored three of Uruguay's last five goals at the World Cup.
Costa Rica have lost their last four games at the World Cup, conceding 14 goals (3.5 goals per game).
Veteran coach Oscar Tabarez has been in charge of Uruguay since February 2006, the longest period among the 32 head-coaches involved in this year's World Cup.
Uruguay have won six and lost none of their eight previous meetings with Costa Rica, most recently defeating them 2-1 on aggregate in a 2010 World Cup play-off.
Costa Rica have won their opening game in two of their previous three World Cup tournaments (1-0 v Scotland in 1990 and 2-0 v China in 2002).
Los Ticos have lost all three previous World Cup meetings with South American sides, conceding nine goals in the process.