Costa Rica looks to continue its dominance with win over England

Costa Rica's strong play has been one of the biggest surprises of the World Cup

Murderers' row.

That's how Costa Rica's opponents in Group D were portrayed. All are former World Cup champions. All arrived at this soccerpalooza ranked in FIFA's top 10.

Somehow the unheralded squad mowed down Uruguay and Italy. If England, the only team among eight on duty Tuesday with no prayer of advancement, shows up unmotivated, the Costa Ricans can complete the most amazing run through group play since . . . forever?

Here is a once-over of both groups in action.

Group C: Colombia is assured of continuing into the round of 16, while the others will wrestle for the second berth. Japan has the longest road, needing to defeat the Colombians and then some. Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni has been catching heat for not starting playmaker Shinji Kagawa, revered in his homeland.

For Ivory Coast -- with three points, two more than Greece and Japan -- the brothers Toure, Yaya and Kolo play their first match since the death of younger sibling Ibrahim, a player himself, who died last week of cancer at 28. Greece will endure without suspended midfielder and captain Kostas Katsouranis, whose absence will increase the degree of difficulty for the Greeks' first goal of the competition.

Group D: Though Costa Rica aspires to win the group and dodge Colombia in the next phase, Coach Jorge Luis Pinto vows to rest some starters. So will England, whose beleaguered Coach Roy Hodgson intends to send out previously unused players.

The day's most anticipated match is Italy-Uruguay, with the loser headed home. A superior goal difference favors Italy in a tie. Spicing up the show are enigmatic strikers Luis Suarez (Uruguay) and Mario Balotelli (Italy), whose talents are nearly matched by their antics.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad