Yes, everyone wants to watch Keylor Navas, Costa Rica’s top player, also known as the goalkeeper who won three UEFA Champions League titles with Real Madrid. However, he’ll have to share the spotlight with Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica’s captain, who’ll be retiring after the 2022 World Cup.
La Sele will embark on an epic quest in which they’ll try to defeat two former champions and one feisty underdog. Thinking about it, a very similar scenario to the one they faced in the 2014 edition, in which they advanced to the Quarterfinals. But, like eight years ago, the soccer odds aren’t on their side.
How Did They Get to Qatar 2022?
After having a very rough start to the last round of the CONCACAF qualifiers, Costa Rica turned things around and won six of its last seven games, allowing Los Ticos to assault fourth place, which granted them a ticket to face New Zealand in the intercontinental play-off.
Curiously enough, La Sele only scored 13 goals, while Panama, the team that finished fifth, scored 17. Defensively, Keylor Navas and Francisco Calvo were crucial. Offensively, Celso Borges, Joel Campbell, Anthony Contreras, and Ruiz led the way with two goals each.
Speaking of Campbell, he was the hero against New Zealand. Well, he and Navas. Los Ticos won 1-0 thanks to Campbell’s goal at three minutes. Later, they were saved by Navas and the VAR. New Zealand scored, but the goal was disallowed over a foul. As if that wasn’t enough, the All Whites played the last 20 minutes with one player less as Kosta Barbarouses was sent off. In other words, it was Costa Rica’s destiny to be in Qatar 2022.
Head Coach & Top Players
Luis Fernando Suarez took over before the start of the last round of the qualifiers, so he didn’t have much time to change things. Therefore, he started with the same group of players that competed in the 2021 Gold Cup. Later, he would add some young talents to the squad, including Brandon Aguilera and Jewison Bennette.
Suarez is a very experienced head coach who led Ecuador and Honduras to a WC. He advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2006 edition with Ecuador, losing 1-0 to England. With Honduras, he lost all three Group Stage matches in the 2014 edition.
He has also coached several clubs, including Atletico Nacional and Deportivo Cali, two of Colombia’s powerhouses. He led Nacional to the title in 1999.
Besides Navas and Ruiz, Borges is another experienced player that you should set an eye on. Campbell is also included on that list. The four of them were crucial for Costa Rica’s success in Brazil 2014 (more on that later).
As mentioned before, Aguilera and Bennette are two young stars that could take the WC by storm. Aguilera recently signed with Nottingham Forest of the English Premier League, while Bennette is currently playing for Sunderland AFC of the EFL Championship.
Costa Rica in the 2022 World Cup
La Sele will begin its journey in Qatar against Spain, the betting online favorite to win Group E thanks to a -120 price. Later, they’ll face Japan. The Blue Samurai are the feisty underdog I mentioned at the beginning, and they’re offering a +1000 price to win the group. Finally, they’ll face Germany, the second favorite to win the group at a +120 price. Los Ticos are offering a +3300 price.
Getting a good result against Spain, which could be a draw, will increase Costa Rica’s chances considerably. However, Los Ticos must-win game is against Japan. Qualifying for the Round of 16 with a 1-1-1 record is viable, but Los Ticos practically can’t make any mistakes.
History of Costa Rica & the World Cup
Qatar 2022 will be Costa Rica’s sixth WC. Los Ticos qualified for the first time in 1990. They pulled off an incredible upset by qualifying for the Round of 16, in which they lost 4-1 to Czechoslovakia.
Later, they had to wait 12 years to return to soccer’s grandest stage. However, they couldn’t make it out of the Group Stage in the 2002 and 2006 editions. Things would drastically change in the 2014 edition. La Sele defeated Uruguay and Italy and drew with England to win Group D. Later, they defeated Greece in the Round of 16, which allowed them to face the Netherlands in the Round of 8. Los Ticos put up a really good fight but lost in penalties.
They finished the 2018 edition in 29th place after losing to Serbia and Brazil. They drew in their last game against Switzerland.
Individually, Paulo Wanchope and Ronald Gomez are the team’s top scorers at the WC, with three goals each. They’re followed by Ruiz with two. Another reason to give it all for El Capi.