Quarter-finals: France – Colombia – Belgium – Costa Rica
World Cup progress: Group stage
Team rating: 9
Top scorer: Bryan Ruiz (2)
Costa Rica had a memorable World Cup, even surpassing the heroes of Italia ‘90, reflects Richard Hall.
Historic Costa Rica
The team that lost to the Czechoslovakia 24 years ago are a part of Costa Rican folk law and, following Brazil ’14, Jorge Luis Pinto’s current squad can not only join them, but do so boasting an even greater honour.
From the outset of this summer’s tournament, La Sele demonstrated that they had come to play football, whilst combination of confidence and mastering of the counter attack, meant that they entertained as well as achieved.
An opening group stage win over Uruguay was as much deserved as it was a surprise, whilst the victory over the Italians stands as the high point to the campaign, which followed by a draw with England saw them top a group many expected them to not secure a single point from. Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell provided the flare in attack, whilst the defence and midfield stood up to the most intense onslaughts, thanks in no small part to their superb goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
As the second round approached, a surprise tie against Greece proved to be quite tricky. The game ended in an entertaining manner and needed a memorable penalty shootout to settle it.
The end ultimately came against the Netherlands, in another penalty shootout. Tim Krul’s surprise substitution and antics sent the Costa Ricans home, but with the accolades and still undefeated in regular time during the tournament.
The Coach – Jorge Luis Pinto
Pinto approached the tournament with a game plan that he stuck to the letter. It is no surprise that the success of Costa Rica was mainly down to their well drilled counter attacking system. The only time this faltered was against Greece when they put the onus on Pinto’s team to attack. This bewildered them slightly as they were set up to defend and counter.
Player of the Tournament – Keylor Navas
In a world of the internet, multiple football channels and computer games, most players have been unearthed of before they get to an international tournament. Navas was respected in Spain for his recent work with Levante, but even those who watched him regularly in La Liga will have been amazed at the goalkeeping ability he demonstrated in Brazil.
A win against the Azzurri meant that Costa Rica had qualified with a game to spare. The manner in which they won drew many admirers for the minnows and set them up on their way to the quarter-finals.
|14-Jun-14||Uruguay||1-3||Costa Rica||Group D|
|20-Jun-14||Italy||1-0||Costa Rica||Group D|
|24-Jun-14||Costa Rica||0-0||England||Group D|
|29-Jun-14||Costa Rica||1-1||Greece||Round of 16|
|(5-3 on pens)|
|(4-3 on pens)|
For a complete review of the 2014 World Cup, check out the next issue of Soccer Italia, written by the team at Football Italia and available on worldwide subscription.