FIFA World Cup Preview: Uruguay v Costa Rica
By Football News
It may seem melodramatic to label Uruguay's opening 2014 FIFA World Cup match 'must-win', but a victory over Costa Rica could prove crucial.
Group D is one of the toughest in the competition, with three former world champions - Uruguay, England and Italy - determined to get their hands on one of two passes to the second round.
While Costa Rica will have arrived in Brazil with the best intentions of causing an upset or two, they know their three opponents will view the Central American nation as their most likely source of a guaranteed three points.
So, before England and Italy face off in the first of this group's mouthwatering ties between two international heavyweights, Uruguay must ensure they get the job done against Costa Rica - the only side in the group ranked outside the world's top 10.
But coach Oscar Tabarez knows his side will come up against determined opposition in Fortaleza this weekend.
"The Costa Ricans are fast and they will try and make life difficult for us," he said ahead of the clash. "Costa Rica is a major obstacle and we have a lot of respect for them.
"But our intention is to get the three points."
There can be little doubt that Luis Suarez - racing to fully recover from knee surgery in time to play - and Edinson Cavani could prove vitally important to Uruguay's campaign on their home continent, but veteran Diego Forlan's comeback from a stomach bug provides Tabarez with impressive strength in attacking depth.
"Age affects things like speed and other player characteristics, but Forlan is still a very big part of this team, bringing his experience, presence on the pitch and great shooting skill from distance," he added.
Uruguay come into the tournament on the back of a six-match unbeaten run, while Costa Rica have just one win from the same number of fixtures, and the underdogs' attitude is very much that of a team with nothing to lose.
Indeed, it could be Costa Rica who wind up having the biggest say in who qualifies from Group D, and they would deal Uruguay a significant blow with an upset on Saturday.
"We will play without fear," coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. "We face three world champions and we can take them all on.
"What we feel is joy and motivation."
Needless to say that joy will reach new levels if Costa Rica can open their World Cup adventure with an unexpected win this Saturday.