Ramirez: We’ve given the Costa Rica fans a Christmas gift

Oscar Ramirez has attempted to temper the expectations created by Costa Rica’s flying start to the Hexagonal round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying and discussed using Joel Campbell as an impact substitute. Los Ticos followed up a 2-0 win away to Trinidad and Tobago by thrashing USA 4-0 in San Jose on Tuesday evening. The result left them top of the six-side standings, two points clear of Mexico and Panama.

“It was a classic match,” said Ramirez, who was the No10 in the Costa Rica team that beat Scotland and Sweden to reach the Round of 16 at Italy 1990. “We really controlled the first half and because of that, we were able to score. In the second half they had to take more risks and we were able to kill them off.

“This gets us even from the Copa America (USA beat Costa Rica 4-0 in Chicago). We really wanted to give a Christmas gift to our fans and we were able to achieve it. Even though it’s early in the campaign, we’ve taken a good step.

“But let’s not forget that we’re only 20 per cent into it. We budgeted for these six points. We had to go to Trinidad and Tobago and win. And you have to win your home matches if you want to go to the World Cup.

“We’re very humble about what is coming. People get excited and begin getting too far ahead of themselves, but this is just the beginning of a long road towards the World Cup."

Campbell, arguably Costa Rica’s most famous outfield player, once again started on the bench at the Estadio Nacional. Ramirez sent the Arsenal-owned Sporting CP attacker on after 66 minutes, and the 24-year-old responded by scoring twice to put the game to bed.

“Campbell is a very interesting boy,” said Ramirez. “Part of my intelligence as a coach is trying to get the best out of him. I knew the American defence would be tired and he could come on and make a difference, and he did.

“For me he was one of the players of the game. He produced a big 25 minutes. Joel always follows my instructions to the letter.”

Costa Rica have appeared at four World Cups, with their best performance coming at Brazil 2014. Despite being the outsiders in a group including England, Italy and Uruguay, Los Ticos won it and eliminated Greece on penalties in the Round of 16, before losing a shootout with the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.