Costa Rica (0-0-0) vs. Uruguay (0-0-0) 3 p.m. (ET)
06/14/2014 10:05 AM
06/14/2014 10:07 AM
Fortaleza, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Uruguay will begin its World Cup campaign on Saturday with a favorable match against Costa Rica at the Estadio Castelao, but the South American country is sweating the fitness of its star player.
Striker Luis Suarez received a minor knee operation following the close of the Premier League season and has ramped up his recovery efforts in a bid to regain full fitness, but the Uruguay camp remain reluctant to comment on when he will be fit for the World Cup.
Suarez, Uruguay's all-time leading scorer, remains the team's key player for the tournament given his outstanding season for Liverpool, which saw him net 31 goals during the league campaign and 11 for his country during the qualification cycle.
If Uruguay will be without Suarez for the opener against Costa Rica, it can compensate for the loss with formidable replacements in Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan.
Cavani, an accomplished striker in the prime of his career, produced a fine scoring record in Serie A during stints with Palermo and Napoli, a run of form that resulted in a high-profile move to Paris Saint-Germain last summer.
Forlan, meanwhile, is the elder statesman of the trio. The 35-year-old is the country's most-capped player and finished as the joint top scorer in the 2010 World Cup, leading Uruguay to a fourth-place finish in the tournament.
Looking to keep the potent Uruguay attack in check will be Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Nevas, and the Levante man is more than capable of rising to the occasion. He has become one of La Liga's premier goalkeepers, and after making his debut for Costa Rica in 2008, he was named best goalkeeper of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup competition.
Costa Rica last qualified for the World Cup in Germany in 2006, but lost all three of their group-stage matches en route to an early exit.
Los Ticos already faced a significant challenge to emerge from the group, but their task has become even more difficult after top forward Alvaro Saborio suffered a fracture in his foot in training.
Saborio scored eight goals for his country during qualifying, but will miss the tournament, which means the offensive onus will fall on Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell.
Campbell, 21, has yet to truly harness his potential and has bounced around Europe on various loans over the past few seasons. He spent last season at Olympiakos on loan from Arsenal.
He scored a superb goal against Manchester United in the Champions League round of 16 in March and although United eventually knocked his team out, his name became known to a wider audience.
"People will expect even more from him now he scored against United, he is doing well and people will expect more when he comes back to Arsenal," Costa Rica assistant coach Paulo Wanchope said. "But he's a great talent, he is someone who can do something different in the game. When we need someone to break down the defensive players, he is someone who can really do great things for Costa Rica."
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