International Friendly: Costa Rica vs Northern Ireland – Lineups, Preview and Prediction

La Sele are gearing up for a summer in Russia. Can this international friendly in San Jose solve any of the selection riddles facing Óscar Ramírez?


Reuters/JUAN CARLOS ULATE

18:00 BST, 3rd June, Estadio Nacional (San Jose, Costa Rica)

After impressing in Brazil at the World Cup four years ago, Costa Rica's Ticos are back to regain the hearts of the onlooking public. 

San Jose, Costa Rica's capital, is the setting for an international friendly on Sunday, where Óscar Ramírez will continue to piece together his World Cup puzzle ahead of their opening fixture against Serbia on June 17.

Northern Ireland have made the trip over the Atlantic to the Central American country in an attempt to find some form of their own after narrowly missing out on a place in Russia. 

Losing by a solitary Swiss goal in the playoffs was enough to end the Irish dreams of a summer tournament; focus will now be on qualifying for Euro 2020.

Reuters/STRINGER

Costa Rica performed well in their qualifying campaign which included a staggering 4-0 win over the USA. Despite scoring only 14 goals in their ten matches, La Sele look organised and efficient on the eve of the finals, with this friendly in San Jose a chance to re-tune and prepare.

Having drawn 0-0 in Panama on Wednesday, Michael O'Neill's side have a short journey to make to San Jose as they look to upset one of the happiest nations on the planet.

Costa Rica Lineup

Costa Rica's strongest eleven are expected to take the field on Sunday with Ramirez running out of time to solidify his tactical approach for the World Cup.

Goalkeeper and unrivaled star of the side, Keylor Navas may not play after celebrating Real Madrid's Champions League final win last Saturday.

Joel Campbell will be chomping at the bit to get a run out in the Costa Rican capital, with stalwart Marco Ureña typically tasked with leading the Tico line of attack.

Northern Ireland Lineup

Michael O'Neill has taken an experienced side to Central America, hoping to instill some confidence in a bruised side. 

The Charlton and Burton Albion partnership of Magennis and Boyce will look to break their duck after drawing a frustrating blank in Panama in the week. 

An experienced defence boasts over 200 caps, with Aaron Hughes leading this race as he played his 111th match for his country against Panama.

Key Player: Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica)

With 101 appearances and 23 goals, Bryan Ruiz lives and breaths the Costa Rican national side. 

Captain of La Sele, the Sporting Lisbon midfielder can operate from the right or left wing, with his trusted left foot often producing the Tico's best work. 



Reuters/JUAN CARLOS ULATE

Two goals in the 2014 World Cup against Italy and Greece confirmed Ruiz's stardom on the grandest of stages, with the Los Ticos' captain guiding his side to a quarter-final - only to lose on penalties to the Netherlands. 

If Costa Rica are to have a similarly successful campaign in Russia this summer, Ruiz is likely to prove instrumental. 

Talking Points

Will Northern Ireland score?

After drawing blanks in four of their last five outings, there must be a growing concern in the Northern Irish camp that their firepower is lacking. 

Failing to find the net in both playoff matches against Switzerland ultimately proved decisive in the lack of participation at Russia 2018.

Costa Rica do not leak goals, however, if Keylor Navas is missing between the sticks then Magennis and Boyce should target a return to goalscoring form in San Jose.

Has this Costa Rican side still got the momentum from 2014?

Los Ticos were riding the crest of a wave in 2014. Quarter-finalists at the World Cup for the first time in their history. Can this wave continue to flow into the 2018 tournament?

Much of the squad remains the same from Brazil: a convincing win in front of their home fans on Sunday will work wonders in reinvigorating that feel-good feeling back into the national side.

Prediction: Costa Rica 1-0 Northern Ireland

Neither side are setting the world alight in the attacking third at the moment, with a distinct lack of goals a likely outcome in San Jose.

A positive result means a lot more to Costa Rica than it does their Northern Irish guests, this narrative should surface in the second half as the home side punish a leggy defence. 

Friendlies involving a side that isn't going to the World Cup often allows for a more experimental style of play, however, this won't be enough to trouble a well-organised La Sele.

Do you think there will be goals in this game? Let us know below.

  1. Poll: Who will win on Sunday?

    1. Costa Rica
    2. Northern Ireland
    3. Neither - it will be a draw
    79 votes
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Lewis Watson

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London-based football writer and former boxing editor, with a specialised eye for sports betting. Featured on Betfair, BetVictor + others.

A Munich pilgrim to witness Chelsea winning their maiden European Cup.

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