Thursday 9 February 2023

“Anita Mikilona”: Costa Rica faces Germany on Thursday

Germany need a win against their final Group E opponents to have a chance to advance; Costa Rica still has an outside chance should Spain beat Japan as expected

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QCOSTARICA – Drawn in a group with Germany, Spain, and Japan, Costa Rica were very much the underdogs from the start – as they were in Brazil when they nevertheless progressed from a group featuring England, Italy, and Uruguay. But they don’t lack experience.

But the Costa Ricans have demonstrated yet again at this World Cup that they are capable of pulling off upsets.

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La Seleccíon may have been the 32nd and final team to secure qualification for the 2022 World Cup, a few months ago on June 14, beating New Zealand 1-0 in an intercontinental playoff but, in doing so, they also became the first participating team, the hosts aside, to sample something of the atmosphere in Qatar.

While their 2022 games started with an embarrassing 7-0 loss to Spain, they did bounce back with one of their patented upsets, beating Japan 1-0 in their second.

In their first appearance at Italia ’90, the Costa Ricans surprised many by reaching the last-16, and went one better in Brazil in 2014 when they made the quarterfinals, knocking out Greece on penalties before losing to the Netherlands – also on penalties.

Costa Rica beat Greece in a penalty shootout and advanced to the quarterfinals in Brazil in 2014. Image: Martin Meissner/AP Photo/picture alliance

Both of those tournaments ultimately ended in triumphs for Germany, who also kicked off their own World Cup on home turf in 2006 with a 4-2 win over Costa Rica in Munich. Now, in Qatar, the two are set to meet again in Group E.

Keylor Navas is by far the biggest name; the 35-year-old ranks among the world’s best goalkeepers and won three consecutive Champions League titles with Real Madrid between 2016 and 2018. At club level, he’s currently playing second fiddle to Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma at Paris Saint-Germain – but he remains the Ticos’ undisputed number one.

In front of Navas, five more Costa Ricans also have prior World Cup experience from 2014 and 2018: Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz, Celso Borges, Yeltsin Tejeda, and Oscar Duarte, who may likely be playing their final World Cup.

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But the team is also evened out by younger players, many of whom play their club football at home in Costa Rica for teams such as Herediano and Alajuelense.

“We have a good balance in the squad. Despite the generational difference, there is a good synergy between the age groups,” head coach Luis Fernando Sanchez, one of the older coaches at his third World Cup, recently told FIFA+.

Costa Rica’s game is based on a robust defense which is strong in the air, supported by hard-working midfielders and forwards who are prepared to help out defensively.

‘Together till the end’

Having led Ecuador to the last 16 in 2006 and finishing bottom of the group, winless and with only one goal with minnows Honduras in 2014, the Colombian Suarez took on the Costa Rica job in June 2021.

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In the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Ticos were led by Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto to 3–1 victory for Costa Rica over Uruguay and another 1–0 victory over Italy. After a 0–0 draw against England, Costa Rica finished first in what many called the “Group of Death”, the second time Costa Rica made it to the World Cup Round of 16. On 29 June 2014, Costa Rica defeated Greece on penalties and went through to the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup. His team eventually lost on penalties to the Netherlands after a goalless draw.

“In my 30-year career, I’ve had maybe three or four good teams where the mentality was right. And that’s exactly what I see with this Costa Rica team: everyone pulling in the same direction,” said Suarez.

That mentality is reflected both on and off the field, with the players labeling their social media posts with the words “Anita Mikilona” – a phrase in the language of Costa Rica’s indigenous Bribri people meaning “together till the end.”

Costa Rica’s end at this World Cup could come in their final Group E game against Germany on Thursday.

However, there is still an outside chance of them extending their stay in Qatar should Spain beat Japan as expected – and they pull off a remarkable upset to avenge that 4-2 defeat in Munich 16 years ago.

Game time is 1:00 pm (local time).

Despite December 1 being a holiday in Costa Rica, Día de la Abolición del Ejército (Army Abolition Day), this year the holiday is moved to Monday, December 5. For such, central government. employees have two hours off to watch the game

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