Departing Ticos unable to repeat Brazilian exploits
Quarter-finalists at Brazil 2014, La Sele fall at first hurdle in Russia
Borges and Campbell discuss the reasons why
Tico minds already turned to qualification for Qatar 2022
By Diego Picado with Costa Rica
The pressure was on Costa Rica as they embarked on their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ campaign, with many expecting them to repeat their heroics at Brazil 2014, where they put in their best ever world finals performance. Yet despite using the same 5-4-1 formation that served them so well four years ago and despite putting the same effort in, the outcome could not have been more different.
Defeats to Serbia and Brazil in their opening two games condemned La Sele to an early exit, without a point or a goal to their name, though they at least managed to put some gloss on the situation by playing out a 2-2 draw with Switzerland in their final game.
In the opinion of Celso Borges, one of the figureheads of the team, if a comparison has to be made with their historic run at Brazil 2014, then one thing is clear: “We gave it 100 per cent”. The only difference was that Los Ticos were sharper in front of goal four years ago, converting the kind of chances that they missed this time around.
“Sadly, we didn’t have the same cutting edge we had at the last World Cup, until this last game, when we created a lot of chances,” the midfielder told FIFA.com, while also stressing that they can leave this tournament with heads held high, just as they did at the last world finals.
Joel Campbell was one of the Costa Ricans’ star performers against the Swiss. Full of running, the front man did his bit to create chances. On emerging from the dressing room afterwards, he had this to say: “What happened in Brazil was in the past. This was a different World Cup and we’ve tried to do things as best we could.”
Campbell, who contributed a goal to Los Ticos’ miraculous run in Brazil and was one of that side’s most impressive performers, added that courage and commitment were as much as a feature of this campaign as the last one. “These things happen. It’s a World Cup and World Cups are unpredictable,” he continued, before going on to say that every competition is different, that comparisons cannot be made.
Turning the page
As far as the two players are concerned, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018 are both in the past. In turning their thoughts to Qatar 2022, they emphasised the need for Costa Rica to continue on the same path.
“We need to stay calm,” said Borges. “This cycle has just come an end, and they’ve always been important to us as a nation.” For his part, Campbell issued a warning: “It’s going to be a very tough qualifying campaign.”
Voices of experience
Now seasoned veterans of two world finals, Borges and Campbell believe Costa Rica need to learn lessons and improve ahead of their next tilt at World Cup qualification.
“Since Brazil I’ve always tried to be a positive leader on the pitch. That was my duty and I took it on at an early age,” said Campbell, who is anxious to pass on his knowledge to the next Tico generation. For Borges, the team’s old hands have a vital role to play in what comes next: “We’re all gaining in experience and picking up caps.”
Russia 2018 is now water under the bridge. The time has come for Costa Rica to reflect on their latest World Cup experience, draw conclusions from it, and look ahead to a new objective: Qatar 2022.