Costa Rica

The past
With previous CONCACAF campaigns dominated by their three powerful northern neighbours - Canada, USA and Mexico - FIFA World Cup qualification has invariably been a tough task for this young Tica team. Of the past six editions of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, only once have Costa Rica managed to upset the trio. That was en route to Germany 2010, when they qualified instead of this year’s hosts, the Canucks. However, the Costa Ricans faced a difficult draw which saw them placed in the same group as subsequent champions Germany, Colombia (fourth place) and France. They duly lost all three games and crashed out.

The present
The absence of Canada in CONCACAF qualifying this time around left a door open for the team coached by Carlos Avedissian. Las Ticas lost 6-0 to USA in their first match, but got back on track with a 5-1 win over Guatemala. A 1-1 draw against Jamaica in their final group match was enough to see them through to the last four thanks to the Stars and Stripes' victory over Guatemala.

In the semi-finals, defeat to Mexico (3-1) meant Las Ticas had to go head-to-head with Trinidad and Tobago for a place in the global showpiece. In an action-packed and frenetic encounter, which saw the islanders lead right up until the end Costa Rica levelled (3-3) in the 85th minute to force extra time, ultimately sealing a stunning 7-3 success.

The future
“We had to win the match however we could; qualifying for the World Cup is so important," said team coach Avedissian following his side’s heroic qualification. "What they did on the pitch makes me emotional. We achieved our goal, which was to put Costa Rica up where it belongs. My respect for the girls, who defended the shirt like true gladiators,” he added proudly.