Costa Rica continue to warm up for the World Cup this summer, but they’re in awful form. Ahead of meetings with Brazil and Switzerland, they’ll need to shape up to provide a threat in the group stage. They take on the side who the Swiss beat on their way to Russia, with Northern Ireland coming to San Jose this weekend. The Green and White Army have turned their focus to the Nations League in the Autumn, with the Euro 2020 Qualifying campaign a priority for manager Michael O’Neill. Can he warm up for that with a win in this trip?
O’Neill decided against leaving his native country for Scotland following the play-off loss to Switzerland, and now he’s hoping to take the Ulstermen to another major tournament. Their qualifiers don’t get underway until March, so it’s going to be a slow build for NI. Meanwhile, Costa Rica are under pressure to improve ahead of the World Cup, and they have much bigger tests to come. They meet England next week, before playing Belgium. Will they go in to those games with a victory?
It’s going to be tough for the central Americans, as Northern Ireland have been impressing with their recent results. Their last three games have brought no defeats, and they were all against sides who are going to Russia. Earlier this week they picked up a 0-0 draw with Panama, while back in March a second-string side managed to defeat South Korea 2-1 at Windsor Park. They finished last year in the World Cup play-offs, getting a 0-0 draw in Switzerland, which wasn’t enough to take them to Russia.
The visitors will make life difficult for Costa Rica, especially as the hosts have one win in their last seven games. They lost at Tunisia in March, the first of three clashes with teams in Group G at the World Cup. They’re acting as Panama’s stand ins for Tunisia, England and Belgium, which suggests there’s not too much between the two countries. Could that see NI repeat their midweek 0-0?
The visitors should be confident of getting a result against an out of form Costa Rica, but they make this trip with a poor record on their travels in friendlies. They’ve drawn their last three, last winning a non-competitive trip back in 2006. With that in mind, we see another draw for the away side, and a goalless draw seems like the most likely outcome when you consider how Northern Ireland are set up.
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There have been no recent head to head meetings between these two sides.
Costa Rica could rotate slightly ahead of their trip to Europe next week for their remaining warm up matches.
Northern Ireland have a few new names in the squad, with three goalkeepers who have three caps between them. However, they’re going to be protected by the vastly experienced Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans and Aaron Hughes.