Monday 20 September 2021

Costa Rica’s World Cup Hopes Rooted in Defense

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Costa Rica is led by forward Bryan Ruiz, who scored a team-high three goals during the final 10 games of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
Costa Rica is led by forward Bryan Ruiz, who scored a team-high three goals during the final 10 games of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

Want to see some of the world’s best goal scorers? Take a look at World Cup’s Group D.

As of mid-April, Uruguay’s Luis Suárez led England’s Premier League in scoring with 29 goals. Italy’s Mario Balotelli has 13 goals in 25 games for AC Milan in Serie A. England’s Wayne Rooney was fourth in scoring in the Premier League, finding the back of the net 15 times.

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And then there’s Costa Rica, which will rely on a different strength to advance out of group play for the first time since 1990: defense.

sele-coach-pinto
Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto has instilled a defensive mindset for Costa Rica, which will compete in the World Cup for the first time since 2006. (Orlando Sierra/AFP)

Costa Rica mustered just 13 goals in 10 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying games. But that was all the Ticos needed, as they allowed a qualifying-low seven goals to finish in second place behind the United States and easily secure a berth in the World Cup for the fourth time. The team held CONCACAF opponents scoreless for a stretch of 476 minutes during one span.

Coach Jorge Luis Pinto is confident the Central American nation can do more than hold its own against three teams that have won a combined six World Cups.

“We love the group,” Pinto told reporters after finding out his team’s three opponents. “The braver the bull, the better the bullfight.”

World Cup Profile: Costa Rica

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Nickname: Ticos

World Cup history: The Ticos are making their first World Cup appearance and their first since qualifying for back-to-back tournaments in 2002 and 2006, when they failed to advance out of pool play. Costa Rica’s first World Cup appearance was its most successful, as it reached the round of 16 before losing to Czechoslovakia in 1990. Costa Rica just missed qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, falling to Uruguay in a two-game playoff.

How it qualified
: Costa Rica won five games, tied three and lost two in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying to finish in second place behind the United States with 18 points.

Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto

Schedule: June 14: vs. Uruguay at Estádio Castelão in Fortaleza; June 20 vs. Italy at Arena Pernambuco in São Lourenço da Mata; June 24 vs. England at Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte.

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Keep an eye on: Goalie Keylor Navas anchors a defense that was stellar during World Cup qualifying. He hopes the return of Bryan Oviedo, who broke his leg in January while playing for his club team Fulham in England Premier League, will cut down on the shots he faces. Offensively, Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell and Celso Borges will be counted on to lead an offense that struggled at times throughout World Cup qualifying.

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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