Sports Mole previews Wednesday’s World Cup Qualifying – North Central America clash between USA and Costa Rica, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Seeking to bounce back immediately following their shock defeat to Panama, the USA return to familiar surroundings at the Lower.com Field in Columbus for Wednesday’s clash with Costa Rica.
The visitors, meanwhile, enter this game having marched to a 2-1 victory over El Salvador on matchday five – their first success in round three of World Cup 2022 Qualifying.
Match preview © Reuters
Prior to the trip to Panama City, the USA had gleaned eight points from their opening four Qualifying fixtures and had strung together a 13-game unbeaten run across all competitions, but that all came to a bitter end for Gregg Berhalter and his side at the weekend.
With 53 minutes on the clock, Anibal Godoy met Eric Davis’s corner with a near-post header which flew into the back of the net, and USA’s forwards struggled for any sort of attacking inspiration as they fell to a first defeat of the qualification period.
Despite that bitter blow, the USA remain one of the favourites for an automatic route to Qatar 2022 as they remain second in the CONCACAF rankings – three points behind unbeaten Mexico – but Panama have now moved level with Berhalter’s side following that eye-catching success.
After their streak of seven consecutive World Cup Finals appearances came to an end in 2018, Berhalter is aware of the pressure on his shoulders to steer the USA back to the showpiece event, but their 2-0 home win over Jamaica earlier this month was the latest in a long line of home triumphs for the Stars and Stripes.
Indeed, the USA have won 14 of their last 15 home games across all tournaments – with the one exception being a 1-1 draw with Canada last month – and Costa Rica will somehow endeavour to become the first away side to win on US turf since September 2019.
Costa Rica’s bid for a fifth World Cup Finals appearance in six editions got off to a morale-depleting start with only three points and one goal from their first four fixtures, but they turned on the style to get the better of El Salvador on matchday five.
An 85th-minute red card to Narciso Orellana did not help matters for the visitors, but all three goals in the game had been scored by that point, with Costa Rica duo Bryan Ruiz and Celso Borges cancelling out Jairo Mauricio Henriquez’s opener.
Costa Rica’s first three points of World Cup 2022 Qualifying has seen them surge into contention for a top-three finish as they lie fifth in the table – two points below Panama in the final automatic spot and one below Canada for the playoff place – while only three goals conceded across five games is nothing to be sniffed at.
However, their struggles in front of goal are well-documented with only three goals scored in their last seven matches in all competitions – two of which came against El Salvador – and their last three games away from home have ended 0-0.
This week’s visitors have also lost their last three games against the USA by an aggregate scoreline of 7-0, with the most recent game in June of this year seeing the Stars and Stripes ease to a comfortable 4-0 friendly win.
USA World Cup Qualifying – North Central America form:
USA form (all competitions):
Costa Rica World Cup Qualifying – North Central America form:
Costa Rica form (all competitions):
Team News © Reuters
The USA were without Zack Steffen and Antonee Robinson for the trip to Panama due to UK quarantine restrictions, but both men are raring to go for the visit of Costa Rica this week.
Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie should also be given the green light after missing out at the weekend due to muscle soreness, while Sergino Dest was fit enough to make the bench last time out and should earn a recall to the first XI here.
The likes of Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson will also be confident about their chances of returning to the starting lineup, with Villarreal starlet Yunus Musah’s spot at risk after a half-time withdrawal at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica did not report any fresh injury concerns from the win over El Salvador, and Luis Fernando Suarez will be tempted to largely stick with the same XI that got the job done at the weekend.
Borges’s 143rd cap for the national team saw him claim a goal and an assist in a man-of-the-match performance, but Jonathan Moya is an option for change in the final third over Johan Venegas.
USA possible starting lineup:
Turner; Dest, Zimmerman, M. Robinson, A. Robinson; Lletget, Adams, McKennie; Arriola, Pepi, Aaronson
Costa Rica possible starting lineup:
Navas; Galo, Duarte, Calvo, Matarrita; Borges, Tejeda; Campbell, Ruiz, Moya; Ortiz
We say: USA 2-0 Costa Rica Despite the contrasting results these two sides posted during matchday five, the USA’s remarkable streak on home soil and bountiful options for change in all areas of the pitch should see them return to winning ways here.
Costa Rica have proven difficult to break down so far, but their problems at the other end of the pitch remain alive, and we expect the hosts to bring Suarez’s side crashing back down to earth in Ohio.
Top tip Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data
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