Japan vs Costa Rica Odds, Pick | World Cup Match Preview

Japan vs Costa Rica Odds, Pick | World Cup Match Preview article feature image

Jean Catuffe/Getty. Pictured: Takumi Minamino.

  • Japan square off with Costa Rica in the World Cup.
  • The Blue Samurai are big favorites, but is that warranted?
  • Anthony Dabbundo breaks the match down.

Japan vs. Costa Rica Odds

Sunday, Nov. 27
5 a.m. ET
Japan Odds-225
Costa Rica Odds+700
Over/Under2.5 (+100 / -125)
Both Teams to Score (Yes/No)(+125 / -175)
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute World Cup odds here.

Japan pulled off one of the stunning upsets of the first round of matches at the World Cup when they beat Germany 2-1. That win put Japan in a prime position to advance to the knockout round of the World Cup, but they'll need to beat Costa Rica to keep the upper hand on the Germans.

Costa Rica looked like one of the worst teams in the field in their first match against Spain, conceding seven goals from 3.5 xGA, failing to register a shot attempt and keeping just 19% of the possession.

Los Ticos' best chance of getting any points or goals from this tournament comes on Sunday, so they have no reason to not to give it a go. Despite this, their lack of talent was on full display on Wednesday. The market has steamed toward the Japanese since their victory and the Costa Ricans embarrassing loss.

This is a different kind of challenge for the Japanese though, who will be asked to break down an extremely low block. Has the market overinflated their chances of doing so?

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Japan Coming Off of Ultimate High

Japan's opening match against Germany was very much a tale of two halves. They sat incredibly deep and let the Germans possess the ball for large stretches of the opening 45. The result was that Germany had a 1-0 lead and Japan hadn't really produced a real onside chance in the match.

Halftime adjustments and substitutes led to the Japanese building their way into the match. They still conceded plenty of chances to Germany and were fortunate not to concede more than one goal, but they also used more direct play and pace and power of their attacking players to produce three or four high quality scoring opportunities.

Japan's versatility is one of their biggest strengths. They can win defending deep, they can create high turnovers and catch teams out of their defensive formation. They also have a bunch of attacking depth and players who can attack in a variety of different ways.

Their press should be able to keep Costa Rica penned into their own half for the majority of the match.

Costa Rica as Bad as it Gets

Costa Rica were quite fortunate to even make it to Qatar. They benefitted from elite goalkeeping from Keylor Navas through CONCACAF qualifying.  They finished the qualifying with a -4.43 xG difference and a +6 actual goal difference. It wasn't that Costa Rica was an average team in qualifying, but in fact they were solidly below average.

Because of Navas' elite play, the defense conceded just eight goals in WCQ matches from 20 xG. Costa Rica had a golden generation for their standards in the mid 2010s and rode that all the way to a World Cup quarterfinal. But that group has aged considerably and the squad has not been refreshed at all. Half the team is over 30, and most of the team plays in the Costa Rican domestic league. 

A matchup with Spain's elite passing unit isn't that indicative of how they'll perform against average teams. However, the Costa Rican defensive low block looked incredibly poor in that match. They sat in a 4-4-2 with two blocks of four defending, but Joel Campbell offered nothing out of possession up top. The result was that Spain just walked into the final third and completed more than 1,000 passes in the match.

They won't get as exposed in this match by Japan, but the market may not have gone far enough in downgrading them off of the Spain match.

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Japan vs. Costa Rica Pick

Costa Rica looked like the worst team in the field coming into this World Cup and nothing about their first match should change that opinion. The market may not have found the bottom on them, either. They managed just three penalty area touches, three passes into the penalty and didn't get a shot off.

Costa Rica won't find much success trying to build out from the back against the Japanese press. That means they'll have to go long and direct through Campbell, but I'm not at all convinced he's at the level of talent or the stamina in his legs to keep the pressure off of the Costa Rican defense.

One challenge of the World Cup is figuring out what is real and what is not from the first group stage match. The market hasn't fallen far enough on Costa Rica and I'll lay Japan -1 at -130 or better.

The Pick: Japan -1 (-130)

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