Spain go into their opening group stage match against Costa Rica as the clear favourites with the betting houses although this evening’s meeting in Doha could be tough to call. The two teams have crossed paths just three times – all friendly meetings, so this will be their first encounter in official competition and on the biggest stage.
The road to Qatar was different for both teams – Spain had no trouble booking their place and suffered just one defeat along the way, to Sweden, in the qualifying round in which they finished as champions of their group. Costa Rica squeezed in via the play-offs. They ended the CONCACAF qualifiers in fourth place which earned them an intercontinental play-off with New Zealand in June – a game they won – just, a 1-0 victory put them into their third consecutive finals.
In terms of recent form, Spain have looked convincing in all of their outings, having lost just once – a 1-2 defeat away to Switzerland in the Nations League qualifiers in September. That result didn’t stop them from earning a place at next summer’s final phase. Luis Enrique’s team warmed up for the World Cup with just one friendly, against Jordan, who they comfortably beat 1-3.
For their part, Costa Rica are also in a run of positive form. They too have suffered just one defeat in recent months – losing 2-0 to Panama in June’s CONCACAF qualifiers. In preparation for Qatar 2022, they lined up three friendlies in September – the first, against South Korea ended in a 2-2 draw but they eased past Uzbekistan and Nigeria in their other warm-up games.
Spain vs Costa Rica: odds
Spain go into this one as clear favourites to win at -650 with most betting houses, while Costa Rica +1800 to take all three points.
But after the shock result on Tuesday with Saudi Arabia beating Argentina 2-1, don’t rule anything out. There have already been four draws from nine games too. In comparison to the last World Cup there were eight draws in the entire group stage from 48 games.
Spain vs Costa Rica: prediction
Spain fans will remember the defeat to Switzerland in the opening group game in 2010 – although that didn’t stop them from going on to lift the trophy. Similarly, Costa Rica lost both their first two group games in the last edition of the tournament in Russia and drew the third game, against the Swiss which signalled the end of their campaign.
Coach Luis Fernando Suárez said in his pre-match comments that the idea will be to make Spain feel “as uncomfortable as possible”. If they can do that, and goalkeeper Keylor Navas puts in one of his better performances, Spain might struggle which would indicate a potentially low-scoring game. Whichever team opens the scoring could have an affect on how the game pans out.
Prediction: Spain 2-1 Costa Rica