what you need to know about Costa Rica

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The qualification path:

A tough fight. Costa Rica completed a real obstacle course to prove its third consecutive participation in a World Cup. Started in September 2021, the qualifications were completed after just 7 months and after 14 meetings. los ticos finished 4th in the CONCACAF zone behind Canada, Mexico and the United States, but ahead of Panama. After a very difficult start to the campaign (1 win in the first 7 games), they managed to finish with a cannonball (6 wins and a draw in the last 7 games). Costa Rica still has a long way to go before validating its ticket to Qatar. We had to go through a jump-off against New Zealand. Thanks to a goal from Joel Campbell, the selection won 1-0 and offered the last jump seat available for the World Cup. However, the 31st-ranked nation in FIFA’s rankings still has a lot to do since it fell into group E with Spain, its first opponent on November 23, Germany and Japan. A victory will be needed to qualify for the round of 16.

Strength and weakness:

As much as can be said immediately, we risk facing a relatively defensive team in this World Cup. Facing two European ogres and even contenders for the final victory, in addition to Japan, one of the best teams in Asia, Costa Rica will try to turn around. It must be said that it suits him. With only 8 goals conceded in qualifying, The Tricolor finished 2nd in defense in the CONCACAF zone behind Canada, but tied with Mexico. His games are rarely spectacular, as evidenced by the 13 small goals scored in the qualifying rounds, and the doctrine is clearly to let the opponent play the game. New Zealand learned this the hard way. After conceding a goal in the 3rd minute in the play-offs, the Kiwis broke their teeth throughout the game with a solid defence, led by the star of the team, Keylor Navas. Offensively, the pick can hurt the wings when playing pistons. Joel Campbell’s pace and skill was also a weapon, as were his frequent set pieces.

Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez

Appointed less than a year and a half ago at the head of the team, Luis Suarez (another) is starting to make a name for himself. Coach for more than 30 years, this Colombian has extensive experience in clubs (Atlético Nacional, Deportivo Cali, CD La Equidad, etc.) as well as in national teams. Passed by Ecuador as then assistant coach, he took the country to the quarter-finals of the Copa America (1997) and to the 8th of the World Cup (2006), with the Colombian staff as assistant, then as coach of the U20s. He also reached the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games with Honduras in London in 2012. With qualification for Qatar already in hand, the adventure started well in Costa Rica and it won’t stop anytime soon. It has been extended until 2026 and the World Cup in North America (Canada, United States, Mexico). It is his responsibility to bring together the new generation (Brandon Aguilera, Jewison Bennette), the one who will already be part of the adventure in the Persian Gulf, then ensure continuity once Navas, Campbell, or Bryan Ruiz retire.

The star: Keylor Navas

As we were just talking about, the PSG goalkeeper is getting ready to play his 3rd and probably last World Cup. At the age of 35, he is one of the most famous personalities in his country, whose career still fascinates. It was during the World Cup in Brazil that he was able to mark Costa Rica, less than 5 million inhabitants, on a map. Then goalkeeper of Levante, he achieved excellence, allowing his team to finish at the top of a group where Uruguay, England and Italy were present. Named man of the match in the round of 16 against Greece, as the hero of the penalty shoot-out, he won the trophy again in the quarter-finals, where Costa Rica lost against the Netherlands. It is thanks to his very impressive performances that Real Madrid decided to recruit him to make him one of the best in his position. Now in Paris, with a huge record (especially 3 Champions League), the fortress with 107 selections will try to finish on a good note from November 23 and to consolidate his legend as the guardian angel of Costa Rica.

The attraction: Jewison Bennette

We could have easily focused on Joel Campbell, the other star of the selection and offensive leader, but a rather interesting young generation is driving behind the former Arsenal or Lorient player. Jewison Bennette is arguably the most promising Nottingham Forest player Brandon Aguilera who is on loan at his home club AD Guanacasteca. Bennette (18, 7 caps, 2 goals) is even ahead of his teammate (19, 4 caps). The winger is enjoying a meteoric rise. He played his first professional match with his club Herediano only in August 2021, where he scored and provided an assist. The young player decided to grow up fast. Three weeks later, the Ticos summoned him. A decisive pass in the play-off against the New Zealanders, he also scored his first two national team goals against South Korea in September. European clubs also follow its progression curve. After one season in the country and 35 professional matches, the left-hander was recruited by Sunderland for 1.3 M€ in the summer of 2022. In the Championship, Bennette was only a substitute but he already has one goal in 8 display

The list of 26:

  • Guardians: Keylor Navas (PSG), Esteban Alvarado (Herediano), Patrick Sequeira (CD Lugo)

  • Advocates: Francisco Calvo (Konyaspor), Juan Pablo Vargas (Millionarios), Kendall Watson (Saprissa), Oscar Duarte (Al-Wehda), Daniel Chacon (Colorado Rapids), Keysher Fuller (Herediano), Bryan Oviedo (Real Salt Lake), Ronaldo Matarrita (Cincinnati)

  • Midfielders: Yeltsin Tejeda (Heradiano), Celso Borges (Alajuelense), Youstin Salas (Saprissa), Roan Wilson (Grecia), Gerson Torres (Herediano), Douglas Lopez (Herediano), Jewison Bennette (Sunderland), Alvaro Zamora (Saprissa), Anthony Hernandez (Puntarenas FC), Brandon Aguilera (Nottingham Forest), Bryan Ruiz (Alajuelense)

  • Forward: Joel Campbell (Leon), Anthony Contreras (Herediano), Johan Venegas (Alajuelense)

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