It’s generally considered a bad sign when a team’s best player is its keeper, but in the case of Navas and Costa Rica, it’s easy to see how much of a godsend his presence is. Navas is the anchor of the defense and the beginning of the offense, the one who blocks opponents’ shots in one moment and in the next starts the process of creating shots for his teammates with his quick and sharp distribution. He’ll be asked to save pretty much everything that comes his way, as it’s difficult to imagine Costa Rica scoring more than two goals (at most) in any game with their limited offensive resources. But Navas will be up for the challenge. For any sad American fans looking for something approximating Tim Howard’s 2014, Navas your man. He won’t be enough to take Costa Rica anywhere near the final of this tournament, of course, but as the first-ever keeper to win three straight Champions League titles, his trophy case is already pretty crowded as it is.


How They Play

Costa Rica line up in a 5-4-1 (or 5-2-2-1) formation and pack it in with plenty of defensive players, making them difficult to score against but rarely particularly threatening on the attack. Los Ticos are far more likely to get pinned back in their own zone than control the game themselves, and even when they can break out on the counterattack, their lack of speed means their attacks cut more like a butter knife than a Ginsu blade.


But even before the ball gets to Keylor Navas in goal, Costa Rica play strong defense, as the United States learned in their combined 6-0 losses in their two qualifying games. Costa Rica aren’t passive when the other team has possession. Instead, the defensive line works to set offside traps and force turnovers and send the ball back across the pitch where their few attacking players and possibly the overlapping wingbacks can try to create a scoring opportunity of their own. This is a frustrating team, not a beautiful one, and while they’re vulnerable to speed and could get absolutely crushed by Brazil, the less talented teams in their group will have to be cool-headed and perhaps a bit lucky to find a way past this very tough squad.

Group E Fixtures

All times Eastern

June 17, 8 a.m.: Costa Rica vs. Serbia at Samara Arena

June 22, 8 a.m.: Brazil vs. Costa Rica at Saint Petersburg Stadium

June 27, 2 p.m.: Switzerland vs. Costa Rica at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium