The Big Match Tactical View: Costa Rica v England

Can Roy Hodgson motivate England for a meaningless game?
Can Roy Hodgson motivate England for a meaningless game?
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England will complete their World Cup campaign with a dead rubber against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte. Michael Cox considers the probable XIs, while Alan Thompson gives you the trading angle...

"At the midway point of this World Cup, eight sides have started matches with a three-man defence, and so far their record is won 7, drawn 1, lost 0."

Back Costa Rica at [4.5]

Costa Rica v England
Tuesday 17:00, ITV1.
Match Odds: Costa Rica [4.4], England [1.93], The Draw [4.0].

From the moment the order of the Group D fixtures was decided, there was always a decent chance England would face a half-hearted Costa Rica side in the final group game. It seemed obvious - Costa Rica would lose to Uruguay, then lose to Italy, and be playing for a bit of fun.

As it turns out, Costa Rica don't have a great interest in this final group game, but for the opposite reason - they have six points from six, and are guaranteed to qualify from Group D, although ideally they'd like an extra point to finish top.

England, in fact, have done a Costa Rica. Two defeats from two, and nothing to play for except pride. They're in a lose-lose situation - play well and they'll be termed bottlers for not doing so in their previous group games. Play badly, and it will complete an all-round disastrous World Cup campaign.

The main tactical story is the fact Costa Rica are using a 5-4-1 formation in this competition, which looks more like 3-4-3 when they have the ball. Arsenal's Joel Campbell has impressed upfront, but their star performers in their two games so far have been the wing-backs - Christian Gamboa was superb against Uruguay on the right, while left-sided Junior Diaz was the best player in the 1-0 win over Italy, supplying a brilliant cross for Bryan Ruiz's headed winner. They lead the counter-attacks, and it feels like opponents have forgotten how to track wing-backs.

That applies to the tournament overall. At the midway stage of the competition, eight sides have started matches with a three-man defence, and so far their record is won seven, drawn one, lost none. The draw was Mexico's impressive performance in the 0-0 against hosts Brazil and can therefore hardly be considered a negative result. Granted, two of these sides - the Netherlands in their 3-2 win over Australia, and Argentina in their 2-1 victory against Bosnia - changed to a back four at half-time, although they weren't losing. This could be the tournament of the three-man defence.

It remains to be seen, however, what type of side Jorge Luis Pinto plays. He'd love an extra point to secure top slot, which would probably mean Costa Rica avoid Colombia, the most dangerous side in Group C. But he'd also love to rest some players - particularly the wing-backs and central midfielders, who got through an amazing amount of running against Italy.

Pinto has generally been reluctant to rotate his side as Costa Rica manager, simply because some of the back-ups lack the quality to play at this level - Costa Rica have a decent XI, but not a great 23. Therefore, it seems likely Pinto will probably mix and match, perhaps keeping his defensive unit intact, but providing fresh legs elsewhere.

Roy Hodgson also has a tricky decision to make about his favoured personnel. He's already confirmed that Steven Gerrard will be left out, with Frank Lampard playing Gerrard's role as both central midfielder and captain, and seems to have indicated that he'll give playing time to the rest of the travelling party too.

Therefore, a possible starting XI seems likely to be along the lines of: Ben Foster; Phil Jones, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw; Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere; James Milner, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana; Daniel Sturridge. Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, still out injured, and third-choice goalkeeper Fraser Forster will end the tournament without any playing time.

It's difficult to approach this market with any certainty, considering the lack of knowledge about the team selections, and questions about level of motivation. England have understandably drifted since the Uruguay defeat, having traded at around [1.6] for this fixture, and are now up at more like [1.9]. I'm still not convinced that's a backable price, though. Costa Rica will be highly confident, and [4.5] looks better value - but wait to see the teamsheets.

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Back Costa Rica at [4.5]

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Unsurprisingly, the markets for this game are considerably different to when they first opened; England were trading at around 1.6 and are now 1.9.  

England will shuffle the pack but they won't want to come home pointless so there are unlikely to be wholesale changes, while Costa Rica could also rest players so seeing the team sheets is important here.

As has happened in England’s two previous games there has been late market support for them and for that reason I will be looking at the Asian Handicap on the run up to kick off, if I can get close to 1.91 for Costa Rica +0.5 and +1.0 then that is where I will be going.  

Another market of interest is Half With Most Goals. Despite there being a massive 94 goals so far in the tournament (32 games played at the time of writing), only 10 of the games have produced more than one goal before the break.

Some 61 of the 94 goals scored in Brazil have come in the second half and this market has paid out on “2nd Half” 20 times from 32 games (62.5% or, in decimal odds terms, a 1.6 chance). England and Costa Rica have found the back of the net six times in total, four of them coming in the second half. I will be looking for this tournament trend to continue in this game and back 2nd Half in this market at anything around 2.2.

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