The retirement of icon Paulo Cesar Wanchope left the Costa Rican national team with a void out on the pitch and a lack of out-and-out star power. As a result, the side has struggled in their first steps toward the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. After drawing with Caribbean upstarts Grenada 2-2 on the road in St George's in the CONCACAF second round first leg, the Ticos won the return fixture 3-0 at home (5-2 on aggregate) to book passage to the first group stage, where they will meet El Salvador, Haiti and Suriname.
The nervy nature of the journey, though, saw coach Hernan Medford sacked in favour of former Olympic boss and Saprissa standout Rodrigo Kenton, who took over at the start of the first group stage.
Costa Rica did not enjoy the smoothest of rides en route to Germany 2006, so their slow start this time around is not exactly a surprise. After nearly going out to Cuba in the early rounds, they eventually righted the ship and qualified for Germany, only to be sent home after the first round after failing to collect a point from their three games.
The Costa Ricans then embarked on a rebuilding process, which brought with it some progress. In June 2007, the team competed in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The squad's lack of preparation time was reflected in their inconsistent group form, which saw them lose 2-1 to Canada, draw 1-1 with Haiti and beat Guadalupe 1-0. And while this was good enough to see them progress, Mexico simply proved too strong in the quarter-finals, a 1-0 defeat sending Medford's men back to San Jose.
Kenton's Costa Rican squad continues to be dominated by European-based players, alongside big names from local club giants like Saprissa and Alajuelense.
Qualification for South Africa therefore rests with captain Gilberto Martínez (Brescia), ably supported by the likes of Cristian Bolanos (Odense), Pablo Chinchilla (Altach), Carlos Castro and Douglas Sequeira (Tromso). Also in the squad are Saprissa's outstanding goalkeeper Francisco Porras, Walter Centeno and Jose Luis Lopez, alongside Pablo Herrera and Victor Nunez from Alajuelense.
Costa Rica progressed past El Salvador, Haiti and Suriname in the first group stage in late 2008 with a perfect record. After leading the final-stage six-team group following the first three matches, the Costa Ricans then dropped their next three games, falling into the precarious fourth-place position with two matchdays to go resulting in the dismissal of Rodrigo Kenton in mid September 2009.