Before the Al Thumama Stadium hosts this fixture, Germany and Japan will get this group’s proceedings underway at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Spain’s lacklustre last-16 exit in Russia four years ago could be put down to an unprecedented scandal involving Julen Lopetegui’s sacking on the eve of the tournament.
Luis Enrique, who succeeded Fernando Hierro at the end of the 2018 showpiece, has steadied the ship over the past four years, yet La Furia Roja are miles away from being a team that won the World Cup in 2010.
While last summer’s run to the European Championship semi-finals barely lived up to the nation’s lofty ambitions, anything other than another last-four appearance would unlikely go down well with those back home.
Making it out of the group stage is the bare minimum fans expect from this modified Spanish side, considering they’ve failed to reach the knockout phase only once in five World Cup finals in the 21st century.
Unlike their more prestigious opponents, Costa Rica would undoubtedly settle for a draw here, especially after finishing their 2018 World Cup adventure in the group phase with a single point.
Yet the strength of Group E, which also contains Germany and Japan, means Los Ticos enter the tournament with the slimmest chances of emulating the 2014 success when they advanced into the knockout stage.
Having finished a competitive CONCACAF qualifying group level on points with the third-placed United States, Luis Fernando Suarez’s men showed they are no pushovers.
But it’ll take nothing short of miraculous to propel Costa Rica into the round of 16.
Only three nations have qualified for more consecutive World Cup finals than Spain (12), testifying to La Furia Roja’s household status in world football, regardless of recent disappointments.
Adding to this sentiment, the Spaniards have finished top of their respective World Cup group four times in five tournaments in the new millennium.
It’s also worth mentioning that Spain are on the cusp of a flattering milestone, as their next goal at the World Cup will be their 100th at the tournament.
No strangers to defying expectations, Costa Rica topped their 2014 World Cup group, leaving the likes of England, Italy and Uruguay in the dust, so no one can write them off yet.
However, since their memorable run to the World Cup quarter-finals in Brazil, Los Ticos have gone winless in six consecutive matches at the tournament (D4, L2).
A lack of firepower up top has seen them fail to get on the scoresheet in four of those six games, and with none of their outfield players playing in Europe’s top-five leagues, it’s hard to see that trend bucked.
Spain vs Costa Head-to-Head
Spain and Costa Rica have faced off thrice in international friendlies in the previous decade, with two wins and a draw in Spain’s favour. The last game in 2017 was a thumping 5-0 win for Spain. Jordi Alba and Alvaro Morata, the two opening goalscorers from that game, are expected to start on Wednesday.
Spain vs Costa Rica Potential Line-ups
Spain (4-3-3): Unai Simon; Dani Carvajal, Aymeric Laporte, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba; Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Gavi; Ferran Torres, Alvaro Morata, Ansu Fati.
Costa Rica (4-3-3): Keylor Navas; Carlos Martinez, Francisco Calvo, Oscar Duarte, Bryan Oviedo; Yeltsin Tejeda, Jewison Bennette, Gerson Torres; Celso Borges, Anthony Contreras, Joel Campbell.
Spain vs Costa Rica Prediction
If Spain are to make amends for a humiliating 2018 World Cup, they cannot afford to drop points against sub-par Costa Rica.
Though the Central Americans will unlikely go down without a fight, we expect La Furia Roja to stroll to three points in Doha.
Spain 2-0 Costa Rica
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