World Cup appearances: Five
Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2014)
Biggest win: 3-1 against Uruguay (2014)
Most appearances: Celso Borges (154)
fixtures: Spain (November 23), Japan (November 27), Germany (December 1)
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Main role: Bryan Ruiz
Costa Rica became the 32nd and final team to qualify for the 2022 World Cup when they beat New Zealand 1–0 in the intercontinental play-off in June.
Although “Los Ticos” made it to the final qualifier to book their place at Qatar 2022, they have had an impressive run at the tournament since their debut in 1990.
The Central American team’s best result came in 2014, when they reached the quarter-finals where they were eliminated by the Netherlands on penalties. It ended 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 beat Greece in the round of 16 on penalties.
That performance changed the side’s luck as some of the players were snapped up by some of the biggest clubs in the world.
On their debut at the 1990 World Cup, Costa Rica won two of their three group matches, including a 2–1 win over Sweden, to progress. They failed to progress past the group stage in 2002 and 2006 and missed out on qualifying for the 2010 edition.
At the last World Cup, they earned a lone point by drawing against Switzerland.
Leading up to this World Cup, Costa Rica only won 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 to the table as the team managed to squeeze out favorable results when it mattered.
Costa Rica is led by Luis Fernando Suarez, who is no stranger to the World Cup. Suarez has led Ecuador and Honduras at the tournament and wants to go one step further in Qatar.
“My third World Cup is an obsession for me,” he said ahead of the play-offs.
“The most important thing is to be able to choose people who are not just players, but who are suitable to play in the national team, who are good for it.”
The 62-year-old will likely have some veterans on the roster when he turns out his 11th on Nov. 23.
Joel Campbell, a striker with 118 games and 25 goals to his name, is likely to lead the charge alongside 22-year-old rising star Anthony Contreras. Captain Bryan Ruiz and Los Ticos most capped player Celso Borges will lead the show from midfield.
Costa Rica has a strong defense with players like Juan Pablo Vargas and Oscar Duarte. Keylor Navas was crucial in ensuring his side’s qualification for the tournament as he kept New Zealand at bay during the play-offs.
Despite a history of causing setbacks, Los Ticos can struggle to get past the group stage. They have been 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 fixtures, the Central Americans will have the odds stacked heavily against them.
A shock win or a pair of draws against their coveted opponents would make for an impressive run in Qatar.