World Cup 2014: Uruguay scouting report v Costa Rica

By Ben SmithBBC Sport
Highlights of Costa Rica's 3-1 against Uruguay

When England watched a recording of Uruguay's defeat by Costa Rica, it should have lifted their spirits after losing to Italy.

The teams meet in their second World Cup Group D match in Sao Paulo on Thursday.

Uruguay look shaky at set-pieces

The success of Oscar Tabarez's side over the past eight years has been down to solid defensive foundations and organisation. And yet Costa Rica might have scored three times from set-pieces at Estadio Costelao. So what has changed?

Oscar Duarte's header gave Costa Rica the lead against Uruguay

The concentration simply wasn't there in Fortaleza, allowing Giancarlo Gonzales two chances from set-pieces. The first was a difficult headed opportunity that came to him quickly at the back post. The second a scrambled toe-poke deflected into the side-netting.

Costa Rica scored their second goal from a well-worked free-kick which Oscar Duarte stooped to head in brilliantly at the back post.

Brad Friedel, the Tottenham and former US goalkeeper, told BBC Radio 5 live: "Uruguay will really need to look at the way they defended those set-pieces. They couldn't cope with the pressure on the ball."

If England can make the most of Leighton Baines's delivery into the penalty area, and free Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka to get forward, they may find chances follow.

Lack of midfield creativity

Egidio Arevalo and Walter Gargano are uncompromising, tenacious and fiercely competitive. "They have two dogs in the middle of midfield," was how Friedel put it.

When Uruguay are without striker Luis Suarez, they miss a player who has the creativity to drop deep and run at players, who has the pace to commit defenders and dismantle systems. Without Suarez, Arevalo and Gargano struggle to link midfield and attack.

Diego Forlan looks pensive as Costa Rica celebrate scoring
Diego Forlan, player of the tournament in 2010, had an unhappy start to Brazil 2014

Cristian Rodriguez is a dynamic and dangerous winger, but neither of Uruguay's central midfield players have the creativity to cause England problems in the way that Andrea Pirlo did in Manaus.

Uruguay rely heavily on their attacking brilliance. They scored 13 goals in their World Cup qualifiers. Suarez and Edinson Cavani got 11 of them. If England can win the midfield battle, they will go a long way to winning the match.

England must score first

The first goal will be key. Tabarez's side have not come from behind to win a World Cup match since 1966. "Uruguay will make it very tough for England but if England were to score first I would see them winning comfortably," Friedel said.

Uruguay are set up to counter-attack, to not lose, rather than win. Tabarez made no apologies for that after the game. "To me, defence is not a negative word," he said.

Suarez fitness could be decisive

In their hour of need against Costa Rica, Uruguay could not turn to the man they needed most. Suarez warmed up after Los Ticos' second goal, but never with the vigour of a man who knew he was about to come on.

Even when Diego Forlan made way, Tabarez turned to Alvaro Gonzalez, rather than risk the PFA Player of the Year. "We need to wait until he reaches a point when he can make a difference," Tabarez said after the game.

Luis Suarez of Uruguay looks on from the bench against Costa Rica.
Luis Suarez is recuperating after a knee operation on 21 May

The Liverpool striker has been declared fit for the England game following knee surgery and is expected to start - but will he be fit enough to make an impact?

With Suarez absent, Uruguay looked rigid in a 4-4-2 formation that has fallen out of favour at the highest level. When Suarez is fit, he adds fluidity and a flair that makes the team unpredictable and encourages others to up their game. They become a far tougher proposition.

"You can see how much Uruguay miss Luis Suarez because even when Edinson Cavani made his run forward they only had one player in the box," Friedel said.

Underestimate Costa Rica at your peril

This is arguably the most talented Costa Rica squad ever assembled. In Keylor Navas they have an outstanding goalkeeper, not just for his abilities between the posts but for his leadership and inspirational qualities. Against Uruguay, he made a crucial save with his side trailing 1-0, back-pedalling to tip the ball acrobatically over the bar.

Yeltsin Tejeda had an impressive game in midfield, while Joel Campbell showed the potential that first attracted the interest of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Costa Rica celebrate equalising against Uruguay
Costa Rica striker Joel Campbell is yet to play for Arsenal, despite joining the club in 2011

Some 14 of the Costa Rica squad are based overseas, 11 in Europe. In 2002 and 2006, they had only three players not playing in Costa Rica.

They defend well and attack with vim and vigour. Friedel said: "Costa Rica are very good at set-pieces. In the first half they sat back. The second half was breathtaking."

Who is the one Costa Rica player England must watch?

Campbell, the Arsenal striker. Having spent the past season on loan at Olympiakos, the youngster is desperate to force his way back into Wenger's thoughts with a big show at the World Cup. Before the victory over Uruguay, Campbell had only scored twice in 13 internationals. But he rose to the occasion in Fortaleza.

The 21-year-old was spotted by former Costa Rica coach Ricardo La Volpe while practicing keepy-ups with empty cans. He is quick, direct and has tricks aplenty. He has the pace to worry England's back four and the courage to shoot from just about anywhere on the field.

Match facts
Uruguay have gone six opening games without a win, last winning their first match at a World Cup in 1970.
Costa Rica scored with three of their four shots on target, all of which came in the second half.
Uruguay have conceded three goals in each of their past three games at the World Cup.
There were 38 fouls in this game, more than at any other game so far at Brazil 2014.
Stats: Opta

Top Stories