Costa Rica have had a rocky start to their World Cup qualifying campaign in the Concacaf octagon, going winless in their first four matches. After just one win from seven games (halfway through the qualifying campaign), Los Ticos did not lose again in the qualifiers, collecting 19 of a possible 21 points to finish fourth in the table. Costa Rica then survived a tense intercontinental play-off against Oceania representative New Zealand in June to book a return trip to Qatar.
Overall, despite the difficult start, it has been a successful run for coach Luis Fernando Suarez since he was brought in for the 2021 Gold Cup. Qatar will be Suarez’s third World Cup after 2006 with Ecuador, where he led the country in its only place in the knockout phase, and in 2014 with Honduras.
This will be one of the most experienced Costa Rican teams to ever set foot in a World Cup. In Qatar, many players – Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell, Celso Borges, Brian Ruiz – are expected to appear in their third World Cup and break the country’s current record of nine games of World Cup experience. They were all part of that special quarter-final team in 2014 that beat Uruguay and Italy and put England top of the Group of Death when they were expected to finish last.
Group E Schedule (all times Eastern)
– Spain, November 23, 11am
– Japan, November 27, 5 AM
– Germany, December 1, 2 p.m
Luis Fernando Suarezhired in June 2021
Players to watch
Keylor Navas, goalkeeper
While the goalkeeper has fallen behind in the series with PSG, he is an absolute stalwart for the national team with 107 caps and two previous World Cup appearances. Navas comes into 2022 with three career World Cup clean sheets thanks to his strong showing in 2014, which included a man of the match in the round of 16 against Greece. He will have to do it once again if Costa Rica is to make it out of the group stage.
Joel Campbell, forward
The former Arsenal product, now with Mexican side Leon, will be making his third World Cup appearance. While Suarez has sometimes left the 30-year-old a second-half option off the bench, no one has scored more in his tenure as manager than Campbell with six goals, including the winner in the intercontinental play-off against New Zealand to shut down Costa. Rica’s World Cup ticket. His experience will be crucial to Los Ticos’ attack in Qatar.
Celso Borges, midfielder
As part of this golden generation for Costa Rica, the 34-year-old will make his third World Cup appearance. Borges is Costa Rica’s all-time caps leader with 154 caps and continues to be a bona fide starter and the brains in Los Ticos’ midfield. He also has 27 career international goals – good enough to be fifth on Costa Rica’s all-time list – but still misses a World Cup goal on his CV.
Jewison Bennette, ext
It’s probably a World Cup too soon for the 18-year-old prospect, but he has only impressed in his young career. Bennett brings an explosive presence on the left wing, which was on full display when he scored both of Costa Rica’s goals in a 2-2 September friendly against Qatar-bound South Korea. His dynamism and attacking potential are what brought him to Sunderland this summer on a four-year deal and now he has the chance to impress on the world’s biggest stage.
World Cup history
– Sixth appearance
– Last appearance: 2018
– Best finish: Quarter-finals in 2014
Prospects and Expectations
Despite coming into the World Cup with an experienced squad, the outlook will be bleak with Germany and Spain in their group, along with Japan dropping points. Costa Rica’s only hope will be to build on that experience to try and channel the energy from their 2014 quarter-final run that galvanized the nation.
Just as Japan will be watching their match against Costa Rica, Los Ticos will be pulling out all the stops for a chance at three points in this crucial second leg of the group stage. The 2022 stage will likely be the last run for a golden generation of players from Costa Rica, but counting on an inspired effort in such a tough group would be asking a lot. Unfortunately, only chaos, a bit of luck and a few well-placed goals can give Costa Rica another shot at their 2014 heroics.
World Cup team
GOALKEEPERS: Esteban Alvarado (Herediano), Keylor Navas (PSG), Patrick Sequeira (CD Lugo)
DEFENDERS: Francisco Calvo (Coniaspor), Daniel Chacon (Colorado Rapids), Oscar Duarte (Al-Weda), Kiser Fuller (Heretiano), Carlos Martinez (San Carlos), Ronald Matarita (FC Cincinnati), Brian Oviedo (Real Salt Lake), Juan Pablo Vargas (Millionarios), Kendall Waston (Saprissa)
INSIDE: Brandon Aguilera (Nottingham Forest), Jewison Bennette (Sunderland), Celso Borges (Alajuelense), Anthony Hernández (Puntarenas), Douglas López (Herediano), Bryan Ruiz (Alajuelense), Youstin Salas (Saprissa), Yeltsin Tedianojeda), Gerson Torres (Herediano), Roan Wilson (Grecia), Álvaro Zamora (Saprissa)
FRONT: Joel Campbell (Leon), Anthony Contreras (Errediano), Yohan Venegas (Alajuelense)
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