Four reasons why Tico lightning could strike twice
Costa Rica were surprise quarter-finalists at Brazil 2014
FIFA.com gives four reasons why they could do it again at Russia 2018
Los Ticos play their opening match against Serbia in Samara on 17 June
In the lead-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ nobody gave Costa Rica much hope of progressing beyond the group phase. Who would have dreamed, after all, that they would top a section also containing Italy, England and Uruguay and then make it to the last eight?
Yet as their recent history shows, it would be a big mistake to write off the hopes of the valiant Ticos. FIFA.com provides four reasons why Russia 2018 could well see them repeat their epic journey of four years ago.
1. The players know each other inside out
There is one thing that stands out about the squad* that Costa Rica will take to Russia: it features 12 of the 23 players who were in Brazil four years ago.
It also includes four players who played parts in the qualifiers for the last world finals but who did not make the final squad for one reason or another: Bryan Oviedo, Johnny Acosta, Kendall Waston and David Guzman.
Add those two groups together and Costa Rica have a core of 16 players who have been together for the last eight years, through good times and bad. In that time they have got to know each other in-depth, on and off the pitch, all of which will surely prove helpful in Russia.
2. Valuable experience
One of the main assets coach Oscar Ramirez was looking for when putting his squad together was experience.
The 23-man list features some seasoned campaigners, and not just in the footballing sense. The average age of the squad is 29 and the average number of caps is 46.
When the whistle sounds for that opening match against the Serbians in Samara, Los Ticos will not be overawed by the occasion, which could make all the difference against a side that has not graced the big stage since South Africa 2010.
3. The best keeper in the world?
While some may disagree and debate will always rage on the topic, there is little doubt that Keylor Navas deserves a mention at the very least when it comes to discussing who is the best goalkeeper on the planet right now. In winning everything there is to win with Real Madrid in the last few years, the Tico custodian has done so as one of the stars at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
While some of Costa Rica’s leading lights are not in the best of form, with Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell battling injury and Celso Borges having had a disappointing season with Deportivo La Coruna in Spain, there can be no doubting that Navas is on top of his game. And while that is the case, Costa Rica cannot be ruled out in Russia, not with their talismanic keeper in the form of his life.
4. Historical precedents
By the end of Brazil 2014, Costa Rica had earned the respect of the world. The years that followed were not easy, however.
As well as failing to win a title in the competitions they contested, Los Ticos find themselves in 25th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, well adrift of the two favourites in their group: Brazil and Switzerland, who lie second and sixth respectively.
As a result, the Costa Ricans are being overlooked once more, though not perhaps to the extent that they were four years ago. Even so, they are some way short of being afforded the kind of status usually given to quarter-finalists from the previous world finals.
Yet that is no bad thing. La Tricolor usually perform better when underestimated, as was the case at Italy 1990 and again four years ago. There is no reason at all why history cannot repeat itself this time around in Russia.
*The squad lists announced by the national teams taking part at Russia 2018 are provisional. FIFA will declare them official on 4 June.