Costa Rica prepare for heavyweight battle

Jorge Luis Pinto's favourite formation is 5-4-1 although it often appears to be more of a 5-2-3. He always uses three centre-backs, and two full-backs who are not entirely free to attack all the time, but are certainly expected to do so whenever they can.

In midfield he uses a defensive midfielder and a more versatile one next to him, preferably a good long-ball player. Which leaves three out and out attacking players, two offensive wingers and one striker.

The tactical picture changes depending on the match. When the opponents have the ball and attacks, Pinto likes his two central midfielders to sit deep and make the first line of defence, with the back five behind them.

When Los Ticos go on the attack, the line of five becomes three and almost reverts to a 3-4-3, or 4-3-3 if only one full-back attacks, which is a tactic Pinto sometimes employs.

With Everton's Bryan Oviedo ruled out by his broken leg, Pinto must find a replacement left-back. Costa Rica are likely to start the World Cup against Uruguay on 14 June with the goalkeeper Keylor Navas (Levante), behind the three centre-backs Michael Umaña (of the Costa Rican club Saprissa) Geancarlo González (Columbus Crew) and Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls). Rosenborg's Cristian Gamboa will start on the right side with young Columbus Crew defender Waylon Francis a possible replacement for the stricken Oviedo.

In midfield Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa) is the first-choice defensive anchorman and Celso Borges (AIK, Sweden) will be the more advanced of the two. The wingers will be Fulham's Bryan Ruiz who spent the second half of last season on loan at PSV Eindhoven, and Christian Bolaños (Copenhagen), and the skilful young Arsenal striker Joel Campbell , who was on loan at Olympiakos last season, will be the centre-forward.

For Pinto there is nothing more important than tactical discipline. Beyond the talent or the ability to make a difference, for the Costa Rica manager it is essential that footballers do what he asks of them. Those who don't will find themselves out of the team.

Perhaps this is why many characterise him as a strict, technical head coach who tends to limit many of his players. But the truth of the matter is that this formula gave him a lot of success in qualifying, and in such a challenging group with Italy, England and Uruguay, pragmatism is Costa Rica's best hope of progress.

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