2014 FIFA World Cup: Uruguay vs Costa Rica - Preview
Fortaleza, Brazil: Luis Suarez looks certain to sit out Uruguay`s World Cup Group D opener against Costa Rica on Saturday but in Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan the South Americans still boast a formidable attacking partnership.
Suarez had keyhole surgery on his left knee just three weeks ago and although he appears to be recovering well, coach Oscar Tabarez is unlikely to risk him against what promises to be the weakest team in the group.
The Liverpool striker was sensational in the English Premier League last season, scoring 31 goals in 33 appearances, way more than any other player.
But although his absence is a concern for the Uruguayans, they are blessed with an abundance of attacking riches.
Cavani comes to Brazil after a successful first season at Paris St Germain and while Forlan`s star has faded somewhat since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he still has the intelligence and dead-ball expertise to unlock any defence.
He will need it because if there is one thing that Costa Rica do well it is defending.
The Ticos conceded fewer goals than any other team in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, averaging well under one goal a game to finish as runners-up to the United States.
In Keylor Navas, they boast one of the best goalkeepers in the competition. He was instrumental in securing a mid-table finish for his modest Spanish club side Levante last season.
So much so that the official La Liga website hailed him as "the league`s best" goalkeeper ahead of more illustrious peers at Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
But the Costa Ricans have been hit hard by injuries on the road to Brazil 2014.
Everton leftback Bryan Oviedo, arguably their best defender, failed to recover from a broken leg in time to make the squad, and Alvaro Saborio, their top scorer in the qualifying campaign, has dropped out with a broken toe.
First-choice rightback Heiner Mora traveled to Brazil only to suffer a broken heel in training on Tuesday. Coach Jorge Luis Pinto has called up journeyman Dave Myrie as a replacement.
With Saborio absent, the Central Americans will look to young Olympiakos striker Joel Campbell for goals in Saturday`s clash at the Castelao arena in Fortaleza.
He will be watched closely by a rugged and experienced Uruguayan defence led by the two Diegos - Lugano and Godin.
Tabarez is unlikely to make many changes to the teams that beat Slovenia and Northern Ireland in their final warm-up matches. His only doubt, it seems, is whether to field Christian Stuani or Gaston Ramirez in midfield.
This will be Uruguay`s first World Cup match on Brazilian soil since their famous 2-1 victory over the hosts in the 1950 final, a result that traumatised a nation.
With Italy and England on the horizon in their remaining group games, the Uruguayans would probably settle for the same scoreline on Saturday.