Costa Rica head into their third straight World Cup tournament hoping to replicate their success of 2014.
The one-time quarter-finalists couldn’t maintain that momentum in 2018 as they tumbled out in the group stage and will be hoping to avoid that fate in a devilishly tricky Group E that also includes Spain, Germany and Japan.
Here’s what to expect from Costa Rica at the World Cup.
Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain), Esteban Alvarado (Herediano), Patrick Sequeira (CD Lugo)
Defenders: Francisco Calvo (Konyaspor), Juan Pablo Vargas(Millonarios FC), Kendall Waston (Saprissa), Oscar Duarte (Al-Wehda), Daniel Chacon (Colorado Rapids), Keysher Fuller (Herediano), Carlos Martinez (San Carlos), Bryan Oviedo (Real Salt Lake), Ronald Matarrita (Cincinnati)
Midfielders: Yeltsin Tejeda (Herediano), Celso Borges (Alajuelense), Youstin Salas (Saprissa), Roan Wilson (Grecia), Gerson Torres (Herediano), Douglas Lopez (Herediano) Jewisson Bennette (Sunderland), Alvaro Zamora (Saprissa), Anthony Hernandez (Puntarenas FC), Brandon Aguilera (Nottingham Forest), Bryan Ruiz (Alajuelense)
Forwards: Joel Campbell (Leon), Anthony Contreras (Herediano) Johan Venegas (Alajuelense)
There’s one worry for Costa Rica, and it’s a massive one.
Star goalkeeper Keylor Navas has been included in the squad despite picking up a back injury in November which kept him out of action for PSG in the build-up to the tournament.
The veteran stopper hasn’t played a minute of club football this season, so even if he recovers in time for the tournament, he’s hardly at full strength.
It was at the 2014 World Cup that Navas earned himself a move to Real Madrid and the 35-year-old remains one of the game’s top goalkeepers, even if he has been benched at club level. Navas has 107 appearances for his country to his name.
Former Arsenal man Joel Campbell now plays his club football in Mexico with Leon. He has a whopping 118 caps for his country and has managed a respectable 25 goals and 22 assists.
Now 37, Bryan Ruiz wears the captain’s armband for Costa Rica and he’ll be crucial to their chances from an attacking midfield spot. He’s been a regular for his country for the last 18 years and is rightly hailed as one of Costa Rica’s best ever.
Under Luiz Fernando Suarez, Costa Rica have played in a number of formations, so it’s hard to pin them down. The 4-2-3-1 appears to have been the most common but Suarez has brought out a 5-4-1 at times and may do so here against tough opposition.
Costa Rica predicted XI: Navas; Fuller, Calvo, Vargas, Matarrita; Tejeda, Borges; Torres, Ruiz, Zamora; Campbell.
2022 has been a good year for Costa Rica, who have lost just one of their 12 games to date.
They got a big friendly win over Nigeria in November and beat both Canada and the USA in qualifying, where they also secured a 0-0 draw with Mexico – all results that will inspire confidence heading into the tournament.
Costa Rica’s last five results (all competitions)
Costa Rica 2-0 Nigeria
Uzbekistan 1-2 Costa Rica
South Korea 2-2 Costa Rica
Costa Rica 1-0 New Zealand
Costa Rica 2-0 Martinique
Back in 2014, Costa Rica did the unthinkable as they finished top of a group that also included England, Italy and Uruguay. Unfortunately, it’ll take another such miracle for them to survive this time around.
With Spain and Germany the heavy, heavy favourites to go through, Costa Rica will need a positive result against at least one of those sides as well as a victory over Japan, which is no easy feat in itself.
The luck of the draw has not been kind to Costa Rica, who look to be staring an early exit in the face.
Prediction: Group stage exit