Three Points: Costa Rica defeat Uruguay
FORTALEZA, Brazil -- The Netherlands' resounding win over Spain may have provided a shock on Friday, but Costa Rica's 3-1 victory over 2010 World Cup semifinalists Uruguay was no doubt the first upset of this year's tournament.
A second half fightback that saw goals from Joel Campbell, Oscar Duarte and substitute Marco Urena helped overcome Edinson Cavani's first-half penalty, much to the delight of those Brazilians in attendance. It also provided a measure of revenge for the Ticos, whose dream of reaching the 2010 World Cup was ended by Uruguay in a playoff.
1. Campbell sparks Tico fightback
Heading into the match, the battle between Campbell and Uruguay centre-backs Diego Godin and Diego Lugano figured to be one of the more intriguing matchups on the day, given his speed and Uruguay's lack of pace in the back. Yet, Campbell showed there is more to his game than just speed. He also exhibited power and finishing.
The Tico forward sounded a warning in the 27th minute when Godin backed off, allowing Campbell to hit a blistering drive that went just wide of Fernando Muslera's goal. Campbell broke free a few other times as well, though Godin did his bit with some timely tackles.
If there was one complaint about Campbell's first-half performance, it was that there were times when he dropped back into midfield to collect the ball too often, and with no one running into fill the vacated space, the result was that there was no one there to occupy Godin or Lugano.
The second half saw Campbell stay more central, and it paid off with a well-taken equalizer. Cristian Bolanos' deft touch played Cristian Gamboa into space, and his cross just missed connecting with Celso Borges. But the ball fell to Campbell and he made no mistake, blasting his shot past Muslera to bring Costa Rica level.
The tally was like a hit of adrenaline for the Ticos. Earlier, Duarte had nearly scored off a set piece, only to see his header saved by Muslera. It turned out to be a warning that Uruguay failed to heed. Another superb set-piece delivery by Cristian Bolanos once again found the Costa Rica defender at the back post, and his tight-angled header snuck just inside Muslera's right-hand post.
Campbell then finished off his spectacular night with a gorgeous assist that substitute Urena slotted home for Costa Rica's third.
2. Suarez's absence keenly felt.
When Cavani put Uruguay ahead with a 24th-minute penalty, it seemed as though La Celeste would survive the absence of injured forward Luis Suarez. While the penalty looked to be deserved, given how Junior Diaz had both arms wrapped around Lugano, it masked just how ineffective Uruguay's attack had been up to that point. Save for one deflected effort that forced a magnificent save from Keylor Navas, Diego Forlan was barely heard from. On the left flank, Cristian Rodriguez and Martin Caceres had a few decent exchanges, but nothing that was all that threatening.
When Duarte's aforementioned goal put the Ticos ahead, Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez was galvanized into action, but none of his moves included Suarez. Nicolas Lodeiro came in for the disappointing Forlan, while Alvaro Gonzalez came in for Walter Gargano. When Abel Hernandez later came on for Rodriguez, it was obvious that Suarez would play no part in the match.
The subs did help Uruguay raise the tempo, and a Cavani header did force a fine save from Navas in the 70th minute. But it wasn't enough to bring La Celeste back into the match.
Suarez's absence now raises all kinds of questions as to his fitness. Given the difficulty of the group, the match represented three points that Uruguay had to have. When La Celeste fell behind, the situation couldn't have been more desperate. Instead, Suarez was reduced to spectator status. Time will tell to what extent he participates in the tournament.
3. Ticos supporting cast pulls through
If Campbell helped kick-start Costa Rica's comeback, he had plenty of help. Oddly, it was a night when Bryan Ruiz didn't have much of an impact. In the first half he was deathly quiet and seemed content to play safe. He showed more spark in the second half as the game opened up. But on a night that will go down as one of Costa Rica's best ever, Ruiz contributed surprisingly little.
Instead, it was left to the likes of Bolanos and his set pieces, Gamboa and his marauding runs down the right flank, and Duarte, who scored the game winner. Celso Borges was also a player whose influence increased as the game wore on. Goalkeeper Navas wasn't tested all that often, but delivered some superb saves when called upon. His aforementioned save from Forlan, when he backpedaled to tip a dipping, deflected shot over the bar, kept Costa Rica in the match.