Those who started following football since 2014, even they will remember the major shocks caused by this Costa Rica side in that World Cup. Defeating Uruguay and Italy, drawing against England and coming out as group leader isn’t something even a Costa Rican fan must have dreamt about before that World Cup. They will arrive at this tournament to cause similar shocks and upsets to advance further.
Key player: Bryan Ruiz
It was a toss between the inform goalkeeper Keylor Navas from Real Madrid and Bryan Ruiz. The Sporting striker was their hero from the last World Cup and was in top form in the second half of this season. Costa Rica’s World Cup fortunes will depend a lot on his performances on the field.
Young player to watch out: Ronald Matarrita
He isn’t yet a regular starter for his country but the talents of this young left back from MLS side New York City is undeniable. He possesses the ability to play anywhere on the left-hand side and surely provides multiple options for the Costa Rican coach to use during a match.
World Cup predictions:
Costa Rica has a tricky group in Brazil, Serbia, and Switzerland with only Brazil being the clear favorites to win the group and advance. But it is not impossible for this team to cause a surprise like last World Cup. Their major asset is their togetherness and familiarity of playing together for a long period of time. Most of the players from this squad featured in their last successful World Cup also.
Panama is another team after Iceland to make their debut in a World Cup. Their qualifications on the last day caused a major celebration in this tiny Central American nation. They qualified to this World Cup on the behest of USA and this itself is a cause of pride for them. They will be looking forward to gaining maximum experience from this World Cup and cause a major upset or two if possible.
Key player: Roman Torres
Fernando Torres scored the winner for Spain against Germany in 2008 Euro cup to win its first major trophy; Roman Torres scored the winner against Costa Rica on the final day of qualification to give Panama a chance of playing in the World Cup for the first time. Torres has over 100 caps for La Marea Roja and plenty of experience coping with pressure and expectations. He will be hoping to transfer his knowledge and experience among his teammates to enjoy any kind of success Panama could get.
Young player to watch out: Fidel Escobar
This 23-year-old defender plays for New York Red Bulls and like other defenders of this modern era of football; he comes equipped with plenty of attacking threat and an eye for the goal. Although a lot of Panama’s success would depend on how he performs his defensive duties against big opponents.
World Cup predictions:
Pitted in the same group as England, Belgium and Tunisia, it would be a lot of struggle for them to get out of it. However, they could make life hard for both England and Belgium by defending deep and causing a draw. They could even fancy their chances by trying to win against Tunisia with the previous results.