Greenhorns Costa Rica face an uphill climb

Greenhorns Costa Rica face an uphill climb

Costa Rica's chances of surviving one of the World Cup's toughest groups depend on the recovery of an injured defender and the performance of a young striker making his mark in Europe.

The Ticos, playing in their fourth World Cup and their first since Germany 2006, face former world champions England, Uruguay and Italy in Brazil with few pundits giving them much chance of advancing.

After qualifying for the tournament in October, Jorge Luis Pinto's men were shut out in three friendlies before finally finding the net in a 2-1 victory over Paraguay in March.

While the Ticos were missing key players in those matches, the results underlined how little depth they have in the squad and how much they will rely on the goalscoring prowess of 21-year-old striker Joel Campbell.

On loan from Arsenal to Olympiakos Piraeus, Campbell enjoyed a good season in the Greek league and has drawn praise from national team assistant coach Paulo Wanchope.

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.

"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 after the game.

"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."

Another slice of good news for the team is the increasingly probable return of Everton left-back Bryan Oviedo, who has made rapid progress in his recovery after breaking his leg in an FA Cup match in January.

Costa Rica, who finished second in CONCACAF qualifying behind the United States, have participated in three World Cups previously but made it out of the group stages only once, in 1990 when they beat Scotland and Sweden and narrowly lost to  Brazil in the group stage.