There is one thing Ticos (Costa Ricans) love more than their Gallo Pinto and that is futbol (soccer). And tonight is the big game, as Costa Rica’s national team squares off against it counterpart in Panama.

Wales v Costa Rica - International FriendlyFor the 90 minutes starting 8pm local time, the country will come to a standstill, when most Costa Ricans will be glued to their television sets – or that of a friends, bar, cantina and the large screens at the local malls.

For example, Multiplaza Escazú recently unveiled their gigantic screen – I mean this screen is BIG –   that is in full view of every patron of the food court.

This is not just any other soccer game, sorry futbol match. No, Panama and Costa Rica are both expected to be on the edge of World Cup qualification, making every point vital.

Tonight’s game is part of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying  underway this week, marking the start of the most fair and even way of determining a confederation’s World Cup representatives. The region has narrowed its possible World Cup teams to six teams, which will be placed in a single group and compete home-and-away throughout 2013 to determine who earns a spot in Brazil in 2014.

The two face immense pressure from the very first kick off of their Hex campaigns against each other.

And while Panama is searching for its first ever World Cup appearance, Costa Rica are looking to get back after missing out on South Africa in 2010.

158041_Sele2Costa Rica’s national team, La Selección or Sele, are in a bit of a precarious position as they transition from an older generation of players to the new, talented, but somewhat inexperienced group. One of the few players in their prime that they do depend on is Alvaro Saborio, who has to be excellent for the Ticos to succeed, which he was in leading the semifinal round in scoring with six goals last round. Paired with Bryan Ruiz, who isn’t in the form he was three years ago, but is still very good, Costa Rica has quite a formidable pair of goal scorers.

The Ticos are actually overstocked up top, with Joel Campbell and Jairo Arrieta, but the big question for Costa Rica is how they sort out their midfield. Celso Borges and Christian Bolaños are extremely talented, but are shuttled in and out of the lineup by the curious Jorge Luis Pinto. If he continues to play musical chairs with his midfield, which has helped expose a sometimes shaky defense, the Ticos could be left watching the World Cup from home yet again.