World Cup 2022 team preview: Costa Rica

The 2014 quarter-finalists have a habit of punching above their weight at World Cups.

Costa Rica
Costa Rica became the 32nd and final team to qualify for World Cup 2022 [Mayela Lopez/Retuers]

World Cup appearances: Five
Titles: 0
Best finish: Quarter-finals (2014)
Biggest win: 3-1 vs Uruguay (2014)
Most appearances: Celso Borges (154)
Fixtures: Spain (November 23), Japan (November 27), Germany (December 1)
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Key player: Bryan Ruiz

Costa Rica became the 32nd and final team to qualify for World Cup 2022 when they beat New Zealand 1-0 in the intercontinental playoff in June.

Although “Los Ticos” left it till the last qualification match to book their place at Qatar 2022, they have had an impressive run at the tournament since making their debut in 1990.

The Central American team’s best finish came in 2014, when they reached the quarter-finals where they were knocked out in penalties by the Netherlands. It brought an end to a glorious run that began with a 3-1 win over Uruguay, followed by a shock 1-0 win over former champions Italy and a goalless draw against England.

They topped their group and went on to beat Greece in the round of 16 on penalties.

That performance turned the luck of the squad as some of the players were snapped up by some of the biggest clubs in world football.

Joel Campbell
Costa Rica pulled a shock 3-1 win over Uruguay at the 2014 World Cup [Carl Recine/Action Images]

In their debut at the World Cup 1990, Costa Rica won two out of three group matches, including a 2-1 win over Sweden, to progress. They failed to go past the group stage in 2002 and 2006, and missed out on qualifying for the 2010 edition.

The last World Cup saw them earn a solitary point through a draw against Switzerland.

In the run-up to this World Cup, Costa Rica won just one of their first seven qualifiers but turned their fortunes around by winning six of their last seven and earning a playoff spot. Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell and Keylor Navas brought all their experience into play as the team managed to squeeze out favourable results when it mattered.

Costa Rica are managed by Luis Fernando Suarez, who is no stranger to the World Cup. Suarez has managed Ecuador and Honduras at the tournament, and wants to go one better in Qatar.

Costa Rica
Qatar will be Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez’s third World Cup [Mayela Lopez/Reuters]

“My third World Cup is an obsession for me,” he said in the lead-up to the playoff tie.

“The main thing is to be able to choose people who are not just players but who are suited to being in the national team, who are good for it.”

The 62-year-old is likely to have a number of veterans in the squad when he puts out his playing 11 on November 23.

Joel Campbell, a forward with 118 games and 25 goals to his name, is likely to lead the attack along with 22-year-old rising star Anthony Contreras. Captain Bryan Ruiz and Los Ticos’ most capped player Celso Borges will run the show from the midfield.

Costa Rica boast a strong defence with the likes of Juan Pablo Vargas and Oscar Duarte. Keylor Navas was crucial in ensuring his side’s qualification for the tournament when he kept New Zealand at bay during the playoff.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas has been a stalwart for Costa Rica in the past few years [Mayela Lopez/Reuters]

Despite a history of causing upsets, Los Ticos may find it difficult to make it past the group stage. They are placed in Group E, the so-called group of death, along with former champions Spain and Germany and Asian powerhouse Japan.

Despite a decent run of results in their last few competitive games, the Central Americans will have the odds stacked heavily against them.

A shock win or a couple of draws against their much-fancied opponents would make for an impressive run in Qatar.

Source: Al Jazeera