After a hard-fought 1-0 defeat to Nigeria, Costa Rica will be trying to get their FIFA U-20 World Championship campaign back on track against table-topping Japan in Victoria on 4 July. The Asians are anxious to build on their impressive 3-1 defeat of Scotland in their first group F match and book a place in the second round.
The attack-minded Ticos created a good number of chances against the Nigerians, and they will come up against another positive-thinking side in the Japanese, who were nonetheless gifted a couple of goals by the Scots. With chances likely to come fast and furious, which side can improve on their wastefulness in front of the net will have the advantage. Costa Rica know that a loss could very well leave them at the precipice of the abyss that is heading home, while full points would allow Japan to feel more relaxed heading into their final contest against 2005 finalists Nigeria.
Both sides should have a full contingent of players to chose from with no serious injuries or suspensions to report. For the Japanese, the attack starts from the back with speedy right fullback Atsuto Uchida, who was a consistent threat in the first match. And out of midfield, Tsukasa Umesaki scored the goal of the group so far against Scotland, so he will also be one to watch. For Costa Rica, don't be surprised to see second half substitute Jean Solorzano start the match from the beginning in order to give the Ticos more of a cutting edge up front.
History certainly favours the Japanese as they won the only match the two have played at the U-20s by a 6-2 margin in the 1997 edition of the tournament; the biggest victory for the Asians in any FIFA men's event. Japan are also unbeaten against teams from CONCACAF in the U-20 World Cup, winning three out of four matches. The Ticos have lost both of their previous U-20 matches against Asian opponents, falling to Syria in 1989 along with that lopsided loss to the Japanese.
"(Japan) remind me of a South American team with quality touches and a lot of speed. I think based on our style of play, we will have a few options against them. It will be an interesting contest, and we will be very careful with our game plan. We use a very flexible system that allows us to make changes without too much difficulty against a team like Japan. Costa Rica coach, Geovanni Alfaro Hernandez.
"When we play well, we can play very well. When we don't play well, we can be bad. We just need to keep thinking positively and play the way Japanese teams are most comfortable - attacking and pressing." Japan coach, Yasushi Yoshida.
"We know if we play like we did against Nigeria and keep the ball on the ground, we can beat Japan and still qualify. We played Korea a few months ago, and I think it could be a similar match to that." Costa Rica forward, Cesar Elizondo Quesada.