CAN Group B favourites Costa Rica kick-start their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign against El Salvador? Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at the betting.
Costa Rica v El Salvador | Sunday 02.00 | BT Sport 2
Group B is evenly poised after the opening round of fixtures and those two draws have put extra bearing on Saturday night’s two showdowns in Houston. The result could be detrimental to either nation’s progress to the quarter-finals but the two Central American sides arrive in Texas at opposite ends of the spectrum.
I was right to oppose Costa Rica in their opener against Jamaica (one of only a handful of angles to actually cop so far. Gulp!) but there was enough fuel in the tank to suggest the Ticos could and should put their foot on the accelerator and clinch top spot.
Having spent the majority of the past year as CONCACAF’s top rated team thanks to their World Cup exploits, many were hoping, praying and predicting Costa Rica could build on their gutsy exploits in Brazil and break up the USA and Mexico’s joint stranglehold on the Gold Cup.
But the Ticos aren’t the same side as 12 months ago. Head coach Jorge Luis Pinto has moved on and Costa Rica have sacrificed their defensive solidity under Paulo Wanchope for a bit more bite in the final third. The 2-2 draw with Jamaica was excellent entertainment but even Wanchope must be hoping for a little more stability at the back against El Salvador.
The Ticos are in a bit of a rut. They’re winless in 2015 and since Wanchope accepted the post permanently but they do hold an excellent record against their next opponents – W38-D10-L14. In fact, Costa Rica have suffered just two defeats since 1997 against Los Cuscatlecos. But they’re going to need more from a few of their senior players on Sunday morning, if they’ve aspirations to fulfil their ambitions.
Bryan Ruiz is a special player when on song and following a recent switch to Sporting Lisbon, you’d expect the mercurial playmaker to be feeling good. But Ruiz had a quiet night against Jamaica and was withdrawn just after the hour mark. The heat in Houston could play its part but Wanchope will hope his stars come to the fore.
El Salvadorian football is still in recovery mode from their 2013 match-fixing scandal but there were plenty of positives in their 0-0 draw against Canada. Sure, they rode their luck when Cyle Larin missed an open goal for the Canucks in the first-half but Albert Roca’s troops outplayed the North Americans for long stretches.
However, goals eluded Los Cuscatlecos again. El Salvador have now failed to find the net in five of their last seven games with their only strikes coming against St Kitts & Nevis in a World Cup qualifier this year. It also counts as their only victory in 2015.
But I’m unprepared to write of Roca’s charges just yet. Wanchope is under pressure back home and their adventurous new style has the potential to allow El Salvador to profit – Costa Rica have kept just one clean sheet in 11 games but managed to find the net in eight of their last 10. And as already mentioned, Los Cuscatlecos were arguably the better team in possession and chances created against Canada.
Costa Rica are as short as 1/2 to win this match but the 8/13 from Betway seems more than fair, so we’ll back the Ticos to pick up three points. However, it’s hard to ignore the claims for a goals-bet and so I’ll have a nibble on Costa Rica to win and Both Teams To Score at a hunky 15/4 with Ladbrokes too.
Costa Rica v El Salvador – Costa Rica to win (8/13 Betway)
Costa Rica v El Salvador – Costa Rica to win and Both Teams To Score (15/4 Ladbrokes)
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