For all that the build-up to Colombia and Greece was dominated by a striker who won’t be playing, the irony is it could well be settled by a forward who has barely played all year.
It certainly feels one of football’s quirks that the injured Radamel Falcao will not be available for this World Cup, while Greek manager Fernando Santos has just declared that Kostas Mitroglou will be fit.
The latter barely played for Fulham last season after a £15m January move from Olympiakos, with his transfer - which was the most expensive in Greek history - ending up one of the curiosities of the season. Felix Magath never illustrated the faith in him that Santos has.
The reality for the international team is that there is no doubt about Mitroglou’s importance, no sense of farce about his input. He is one of Greece’s most important players, as illustrated by the three strikes in the 4-2 aggregate play-off win over Romania that secured their place in Brazil.
Costa Rica: Group D team profile
Costa Rica: Group D team profile
1/5 How they qualified
Costa Rica surprised many after managing to beat the giants in the North & Central American qualifying section, overcoming both group winners USA and struggling Mexico. They maintained a formidable record at home, winning all five of their games and scoring 10 goals, conceding just twice. Their failure to win away from home, however, cost them top spot. Finishing four points off leaders USA, Costa Rica finished second ahead of Honduras. Despite the odd hiccup, it was a successful campaign for the Latin American country, who qualified automatically for their fourth World Cup.
2/5 Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto
A Colombian native, Pinto has spent the majority of his 29-year career in management in Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica. He is currently in his second spell in charge of Los Ticos, after originally joining in 2004. He took over as national team manager from Ricardo La Volpe in 2011 after a poor showing at both the Gold Cup and the Copa America, and Pinto has certainly taken this side forward. Leading the side to famous victories over USA and Mexico were obvious highlights in his reign to date. As one of the longest-serving coaches in the nation’s history, he’ll be hoping to guide them to a respectable finish in Brazil.
3/5 Star player: Bryan Ruiz
Aside from former Manchester City legend Paulo Wanchope, Bryan Ruiz is arguably one of the best players the small country has ever produced. A striker converted into a playmaker, Ruiz joined Fulham for £10 million from FC Twente, after winning the title with the Dutch club in 2010 and scoring 24 goals. His record with the Premier League outfit was disappointing by comparison, scoring just eight goals in two years at Craven Cottage, before sealing a loan switch to PSV in January. For Costa Rica, the captain’s record is far more impressive, with 12 goals in 62 caps, including the winner against Mexico in their final qualifying match.
4/5 Emerging talent: Joel Campbell
On the books at Arsenal, highly-rated forward Joel Campbell has been patiently waiting for a work permit so he is eligible to play for the Gunners. In the meantime, the 21-year-old has been enjoying loan spells around Europe, having joined Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiakos in the past three seasons. A pacy forward who can play through the centre or on the flank, his record at club level is far from spectacular but for Costa Rica, he is certainly more prolific. He hit 10 goals in 13 games for the Under-20 side and impressed at the Under-20 World Cup in 2011, before his senior debut against Cuba later that year. Since then, he has nine goals in 31 caps, a decent return for a player of his age. At 21, he is regarded a key player in the side, and will surely be one of the first names on the plane to Brazil next summer.
5/5 How they line up (4-3-3)
Keilor Navas; Johnny Acosta, Giancarlo González, Michael Umaña, Roy Miller; Celso Borges, Diego Calvo, Yeltsin Tejeda; Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell, Christian Bolaños
“Being a player who has an important role in the team due to his characteristics we understand that Kostas should be here,” Santos said. “Everything is ok.”
“I think he has been improving a lot physically so that is not a problem. He may be lacking rhythm a bit but after each day he is better and Mitroglou will be close to his top performances here.”
Greece will need that. He is the only player that provides penetration in a largely defensive side. In the absence of Falcao, meanwhile, Colombia will look to another forward who has attracted Premier League attention: Jackson Martinez.
One of them will have to make his presence felt - especially in such a seemingly open group.Reuse content