Costa Rica will be out to recreate their magic from Brazil 2014, and they could yet surprise and destabilise some of the teams in the established order in Russia.
Costa Rica ensured they entertained fans all across the world with their showing at Brazil 2014. Pitted in the Group of Death back in Brazil, against the likes of England, Italy and Uruguay, everyone knew it wasn’t Costa Rica’s cup of tea. They surprised not only a few but also themselves when they entered the knockout phases as group winners.
As shocking as it may sound, they beat Uruguay, Italy and drew with England in the process of winning that improbable group of death. After that, they reached the quarterfinal stage where the Netherlands defeated them on penalties. That run was their best performance in a World Cup, and here they are, in Russia, to recreate it all over again.
Here they face another set of tough opposition as Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland lie in wait of the central Americans. Their entry into Russia was also an interesting one, as they somewhat comfortably got out of a more complex qualifying system.
Group & Fixtures
Costa Rica’s first game in Group-E is an all-important one against Serbia. Either side could stake a claim for entering the next round if they win in this game. Next up is the ultimate tie with Brazil and the Costa Ricans will be up for a challenge as they have shown in the last edition of the tournament.
Finally, Costa Rica square off with Switzerland, who are also one of the favourites along with Brazil to enter the knockout phase of the World Cup. But if Costa Rica are to win against Serbia and get the point against Brazil, this could turn the group around and leave everything to the happenings of the final round of matches.
Oscar Ramirez’ job is much harder than we think when compared to former manager, Jorge Luis Pinto, who came to Brazil already defeated looking at the group they were playing. Ramirez will have a similar squad, albeit an ageing one, but this team still has the talent they showcased four years ago.
Goalkeepers: Leonel Moreira (Herediano), Keylor Navas (Real Madrid), Patrick Pemberton (LDA)
Defenders: Johnny Acosta (Aguilas Dorados), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United), Oscar Duarte (Espanyol), Cristian Gamboa (Celtic), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Bologna), Ronald Matarrita (NYCFC), Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland), Ian Smith (Norrkoping), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Midfielders: Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Christian Bolanos (Saprissa), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruna), Daniel Colindres (Saprissa), David Guzman (Portland Timbers), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting Lisbon), Yeltsin Tejeda (Lausanne), Rodney Wallace (NYCFC)
Forwards: Joel Campbell (Real Betis), Marco Urena (LAFC), Johan Venegas (Saprissa)
Four years after their impressive showing in Brazil, Costa Rica return to the World Cup, but this time there is a certain expectation from them to perform, unlike the last time out. Captained by the 32-year old Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica are a side that is ageing but yet equally talented to inflict damage to teams they are least expected to do.
When they are on the field, they play their game in their rhythm, that could be difficult to catch for opponents. Four years ago, this might not have had the kind of experience needed to succeed at tournaments such as the World Cup, but today they are different; they are a team of not one but many leaders. The young back then have matured, and the old have become wiser.
Keylor Navas is the star attraction, and the Real Madrid man would be in high spirits following yet another Champions League triumph with his club. Then there is Joel Campbell, who broke out in the last edition but has performed decently in the years that followed. He did not, however, play too much for Real Betis previous term, and there are question marks over his form.
Jorge Luis Pinto departed after Brazil 2014, Paulo Wanchope was appointed first as interim coach, then as Costa Rica’s permanent manager. Oscar Ramirez was named as Wanchope’s assistant but was lucky enough to become the permanent manager upon Wanchope’s departure only a week later.
Since then, he has extensively worked in this squad, ensuring he keeps the core and spirit of the team intact while making changes that were tactically apt and those that improved the team further. Costa Rica’s run in their complicated CONCACAF qualifiers showed that where they lost only twice in their quota of 13-games to qualify for Russia.
Potential Starting-XI (5-4-1) – Navas; Gamboa, Acosta, Gonzalez, Duarte, Oviedo; Borges, Ruiz, Colindres, Campbell; Urena
Costa Rica could yet again surprise their opponents and many others during this World Cup. Their side might be ageing, but they still retain the talent that saw them become one of the surprise teams of Brazil 2014. At Russia, however, they face the substantial threat of Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia in their group, but there could be the case that they surpass expectations and move to the next round.
Their opening games matter a lot, and they will go on to define their progression. Even if we are to consider them progressing as the second-placed side from their group, they will likely meet the likes of Germany, which would undoubtedly end their tournament. Despite those predictions, Costa Rica will be one of the entertainers in Russia.