How they qualified
The arrival of the Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto as national team coach has ushered in a new era for Costa Rica. Joining the CONCACAF preliminaries in Round 3, Los Ticos finished second behind Mexico in their group to advance to the final six-team phase, where they sealed their ticket to Brazil 2014 with two games to spare, eventually finishing second behind USA. Their successful campaign was based on two key factors. The first was their solidity at the back, with Pinto’s side conceding only seven goals in the final round, fewer than any other team. The second was their formidable home record of five wins in five games in the final phase.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Costa Rica played their first game as a national team in 1921, a 7-0 win over Central American neighbours El Salvador. As they developed as a side, things weren’t always quite so easy, but after many years of manful efforts they finally managed to reach the world’s biggest football tournament in 1990, taking full advantage of Mexico’s suspension to reach the finals in Italy. Once there, they beat Sweden and Scotland to reach the knockout rounds in an impressive debut under the care of wily boss Bora Milutinovic, where they lost to Czechoslovakia.
They returned to the world stage in 2002 after narrowly failing to reach USA 1994 and France 1998. Drawn into a tricky group alongside eventual champions Brazil and semi-finalists Turkey, the valiantTicos went out at the first hurdle, the same stage where they would make their exit in a significantly poorer showing four years later in Germany.
The key players
Costa Rica’s fortunes lie at the skilful feet of one Bryan Ruiz. Called “a truly special player” by former coach Rodrigo Kenton, Ruiz established himself at club side Twente in the Netherlands before moving on to Fulham in England. Now back in the Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven, he ranks among the best playmakers in the North, Central American and Caribbean zone. Alongside Ruiz are a number of tried-and-trusted performers like Christian Bolanos and outstanding goalkeeper Keylor Navas.The dribbling skills and all-around attacking play of the young Joel Campbell have made him another of Los Ticos’ most valuable assets.
Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Italy 1990 (Round of 16), FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 (Fourth place)
Former stars: Hernan Medford, Paulo Wanchope, Walter Centeno