Uruguay welcomed star attackers Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan back to the practice pitch just in time for the Group D opener against Costa Rica on Saturday, but the former’s status for Saturday’s match still remains a serious question.
Suarez is recovering from last month's knee surgery following his 31-goal performance for Liverpool in the Premier League, but Forlan’s presence could be enough to carry Uruguay’s attack against a talented Costa Rica squad.
Uruguay’s surprise fourth-place finish four years ago in South Africa was largely due to Forlan’s stellar five goals throughout the tournament, which earned him Golden Ball honors. Suarez, meanwhile, introduced himself to the world with a spirited tournament in 2010.
Now the Uruguayans will at least face Costa Rica at Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, with some confidence in their attack thanks to Forlan and Edinson Cavani. Last month, the Paris Saint-Germain star said he was worried about his nation’s prospects in the World Cup after Suarez’s injury was revealed, but with 21 career international goals Cavani and Forlan can keep enough pressure on Costa Rica throughout the match.
Costa Rica will send out their scoring champion in attacking midfielder Bryan Ruiz, who’s netted 12 goals in 63 senior team appearances since 2005. The nation of roughly 4.8 million is hoping to advance past the group stage and into the knockout rounds for only the second time in history and first since 1990 when it finished 13th overall.
Joining Ruiz is 21-year-old Joel Campbell and veteran Christian Bolanos. An Arsenal forward who spent the 2013-14 term on loan with Olympiakos, Campbell scored a spectacular goal against Manchester United during Champions League. During the qualifying round, Campbell also netted one goal in five starts.
The winger Bolanos, 30, is known best for his speed, and could challenge Forlan along the sidelines for loose balls while seeking Campbell or Ruiz along their deep runs.
Costa Rica’s backline and overall defense were supposed to be strengths with Los Ticos conceding only seven goals during 10 qualifiers, but a broken leg suffered by key defender Bryan Oviedo during a match with Everton in January could leave the squad scrambling in a group that includes England and Italy.
However, Oviedo expressed confidence in his compatriots and believes they are capable of disruption in Brazil.
"This is a very strong group. These three games will be very hard and we need to play well, we have to be prepared for them and very focused," Oviedo said to Sky Sports.
"We'll need to stay concentrated because we will be playing against three of the best teams in the world. But nothing is impossible.
"I think Costa Rica has a good chance but it is difficult for everyone in the group."
Start Time: Saturday, 3 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ABC
Live Online Stream: A live online stream is available at Watch ESPN here.
Betting Odds: Uruguay -1
Over/Under: 2.5 goals
Prediction: Uruguay 2-1 Costa Rica