World Cup 2014 Preview: Costa Rica hoping to turn heads

May 31, 2014 - 9:42 PM ( - Costa Rica missed out on the 2010 World Cup, but are back on the big stage this time around and flying well under the radar looking to surprise the world.

Los Ticos last qualified for the World Cup in Germany in 2006, but lost all three of their group-stage matches en route to an early exit.

But with manager Jorge Luis Pinto roaming the touch line for a second time and a pair of prolific scorers at the top of the formation, Costa Rica will be looking to turn a few heads in South America.

Pinto is in his second stint in charge of Costa Rica after being re-hired in 2011. The Colombian has considerable experience coaching at the club level in South America and Costa Rica, and had a stint as boss of his own national team.

Pinto is one of the few managers that regularly employs a five-man back line and the strategy worked wonders in CONCACAF qualifying as the side conceded just seven goals and notched wins against the United States and Mexico en route to a second-place finish in the hexagonal.

Los Ticos will head to Brazil without a key piece of their attack as forward Alvaro Saborio will miss the tournament due to a foot fracture he suffered in training on May 29.

"Alvaro will not play at the World Cup. We hope he recovers on time to travel with us to Brazil. It really hurts, because he's an extraordinary man," Pinto said.

Costa Rica relied heavily on Saborio to provide goals during the qualification cycle and he responded in a big way with eight tallies. But without the RSL man, the scoring onus will fall to Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell.

Campbell, 21, has yet to truly harness his potential and has bounced around Europe on various loans over the past few seasons. He spent last season at Olympiakos on loan from Arsenal.

He scored a superb goal against Manchester United in the Champions League round of 16 in March and although United eventually knocked his team out, his name became known to a wider audience.

Something not lost on Costa Rica assistant coach Paulo Wanchope:

"People will expect even more from him now he scored against United, he is doing well and people will expect more when he comes back to Arsenal," Wanchope said.

"But he's a great talent, he is someone who can do something different in the game. When we need someone to break down the defensive players, he is someone who can really do great things for Costa Rica."

Ruiz has accumulated 61 caps for his country and can operate as an attacking midfielder or as a second striker, giving Pinto some options with formation selection.

Ruiz established himself in the Netherlands with Twente before moving to the Premier League with Fulham. Now back in the Dutch Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven, he ranks among the best playmakers in the North, Central American and Caribbean region.

Veteran defender Junior Diaz will anchor the five-man back line with 60 caps to his name. Diaz made his first appearance for the senior national team in September 2003, and since then, has been a steady presence in the back line. The Mainz man had stints in Poland and Belgium before arriving in the Bundesliga in 2012.

Goalkeeper Keylor Nevas is also likely to have a starring role as the Levante man has become one of La Liga's premier goalkeepers. Nevas made his debut for Costa Rica in 2008 and was named best goalkeeper of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup competition.

Facing England, Italy and Uruguay in Group D, Costa Rica will likely be an underdog, but Pinto believes his players will be up for a considerable challenge.

"We're going to face three strong teams with World Cup pedigrees and that will motivate us and make us get a better feeling of the tournament. It will make us react better on the pitch. We have never beaten any of them. Let's hope this is the moment."

Los Ticos appear ready for their moment in the sun.

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