Take a look at the standings in the CONCACAF Zone’s final six-team qualifying group for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ and you will see Costa Rica sandwiched between regional heavyweights Mexico and USA at the top of the table.
Los Ticos have reached that lofty position with a minimum of fuss. After joining the qualifying competition in the previous round and finishing second in Group B, the Costa Ricans went into 2013 determined to atone for their absence at South Africa 2010.
At the start of the year they occupied a modest 66th place in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, with no fewer than seven local rivals positioned above them, an indication of the task they faced in their bid to reach Brazil.
Much has changed in the few months since then, however. Now 39th overall, having jumped up nine places from June to July, Los Ticos stand above all their CONCACAF neighbours bar the mighty Mexicans and Americans.
Theirs is a rise that owes nothing to miracles but everything to hard work, consistency and ability, qualities they have displayed over the course of what has been a hugely productive year to date.
Slowly but surely
Drawn with Mexico, El Salvador and Guyana in the previous qualifying round, Costa Rica had relatively few problems advancing to the final six-team round, where sterner tests awaited them.
Los Ticos warmed up for the last leg of the Brazil 2014 qualification campaign by contesting the Copa Centroamericana earlier this year and lay in 53rd place in the Ranking as the final phase got under way. After making a faltering start that involved a draw against Panama and a defeat to USA, the Costa Ricans saw off Jamaica in March. That result, coupled with a timely stalemate between the Americans and Mexico, allowed them to take to the top of the section.
It was then, at the beginning of June, that the Central American side picked up the pace, holding El Tri to a noteworthy draw at their Estadio Azteca stronghold and chalking up home wins against Honduras and the Panamanians, proof that their recent rise was no fluke.
Success on the pitch has been reflected by another Ranking climb, with the Costa Ricans moving up to 39th place this month, their highest since September 2009.
Though some way short of their all-time best of 17th, a position they scaled in May 2003 and again in January 2004, their steady climb shows that they are once again a force to be reckoned with on the regional scene.
“It’s very pleasing,” said national team coach Jorge Luis Pinto. “There’s no doubt about it. We’re delighted that we’ve fulfilled the criteria of the people who do the ranking and that we’ve climbed our way up.”
The final straight in the race to Brazil 2014 is approaching fast, and though Costa Rica have a tough run-in with home games against USA and Mexico to come as well as trips to Honduras and Jamaica, Pinto is confident his charges can finish the job off.
“We are fighting hard and I hope we can use our heads and make it happen,” said the coach. “With God and the nation behind us, I hope we get that chance to go to the World Cup. I’m convinced we’re on the right track and we’ll keep on battling.”
Calculation of points for a single match
P = M x I x T x C
M: points for Match result
Teams gain 3 points for a victory, 1 point for a draw and 0 points for a defeat. In a penalty shoot-out, the winning team gains 2 points and the losing team gains 1 point.
I: Importance of match
Friendly match (including small competitions): I = 1.0
FIFA World Cup™ qualifier or confederation-level qualifier: I = 2.5
Confederation-level final competition or FIFA Confederations Cup: I = 3.0
FIFA World Cup™ final competition: I = 4.0
T: strength of opposing Team
The strength of the opponents is based on the formula: 200 – the ranking position of the opponents.As an exception to this formula, the team at the top of the ranking is always assigned the value 200 and the teams ranked 150th and below are assigned a minimum value of 50. The ranking position is taken from the opponents’ ranking in the most recently published FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
C: strength of Confederation
When calculating matches between teams from different confederations, the mean value of the confederations to which the two competing teams belong is used. The strength of a confederation is calculated on the basis of the number of victories by that confederation at the last three FIFA World Cup™ competitions (see following page). Their values are as follows:
|Points Last Month|
|Points outside Ranking calculation|