Perhaps the most surprising qualifier according to part-time fans. Not typically throw into the same breath as the Brazil’s, and Germany’s, but they have earned everything they’ve got. Since qualifying with 2 matches to spare, and finishing tops in last World Cup’s group of death above England, Italy and Uruguay, they shouldn’t be a shock. With no real ‘superstars’ to speak of, this team relies on a complete team effort, and it’s worked for them. It’s worked very well.
– Costa Rica
Players to watch:
Bryan Ruiz: The former Fulham attacker, now representing Sporting CP of Portugal, will be captain of this year’s edition of the Ticos in Russia. He comes into this World Cup with boatloads of international experience, scoring 24 goals over his 110-match career. After scoring only 2 goals in Portugal’s top flight this past season, which matched his output from the 2014 tournament, he’ll be looking to get on the board quickly.
Keylor Navas: The highest profile player on this side, who’s freshly coming off of a Champions League title with Real Madrid, bring all the big-stage experience necessary to provide stability in the net. Looking ahead to a clash with offensive juggernauts Brazil, this is going to be his biggest test, and where he’ll need to hold his club in there, but he’s proven capable plenty of times before.
Joel Campbell: Now at 25 years old, the very capable striker has shown flashes of his ability, but now is the time he needs to do it on a consistent basis. He’s able to use his speed very well, and can beat players one-on-one, but Arsenal has loaned him out on several occasions because he isn’t able to sustain it. In a month-long grind, Costa Rica would be well-served if Campbell could find his legs and punch a few in the back of the net.
Thrust into another lesser group-of-death scenario, Costa Rica definitely has the ability to make it out to the next stage. With Brazil coming in as favourites to win, the Ticos will have to concentrate on taking their results from Serbia & Switzerland If they’ll have any hope of going on. But as they’ve shown in qualifying, and if they can carry their keepers winning mentality through, we should be seeing them some more.