Costa Rica (pictured) will participate in its fourth World Cup finals at Brazil 2014. (Photo: Mexsport)
SANTOS, Brazil -- It has been 24 years since Hernan Medford famously slotted home the winner against Sweden in the last Group C match of Italia 1990. As Medford jubilantly kissed the Costa Rican badge at the corner flag of Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris, fans of the Ticos around the globe celebrated, knowing the 2-1 result was enough to send the team through to the knockout stages of its first-ever World Cup.
Not since that delicious night in Liguria, a region known for its gastronomic wealth, has Costa Rica indulged in such a World Cup taste. After failing to qualify for either the 1994 or the 1998 editions, La Sele were unlucky not advance out of its group in 2002, losing out to Turkey on goal differential.
Qualifying again in 2006, the Costa Ricans struggled in Germany, losing all three matches. Four years later, the journey to South Africa again brought goal-differential heartbreak. An injury-time header by the USA’s Jonathan Bornstein on the final day of qualifying saw the Ticos fall level in the Hexagonal standings with Honduras, who held the all-important tiebreaker. Costa Rica was forced to face Uruguay in an intercontinental play-off, which it narrowly dropped 2-1 on aggregate.
Now, with the 2014 World Cup ready to launch, Costa Rica is looking to reclaim the magic of Italia 1990, in hopes of advancing through a highly-competitive group that includes three former World Cup champions in Uruguay, Italy and England.
While the mission appears daunting, Costa Rica will draw upon recent successes in an effort to secure a round of 16 place. It won the 2013 UNCAF Copa Centroamericana, advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup and finished as runner-up in the Hexagonal, punching its ticket to Brazil with two games to spare.
Despite the loss of striker Alvaro Saborio to injury, the team is still strong going forward and will rely primarily on Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell to spearhead the offense. Ruiz, a talented attacker currently plying his trade at PSV Eindhoven, will be counted to create and to convert chances.
Campbell, only 21-years-old, has already scored in multiple international tournaments, including the CONCACAF Gold Cup (2011), Copa America (2011), CONCACAF Under-17 Championship (2009), CONCACAF Under-20 Championship (2011), as well FIFA U-17 (2009) and U-20 (2011) World Cups. Can he lift his game once again, this time, in a World Cup?
While the road to the knockout stages is paved with outstanding talents and teams, Costa Rica possesses equally high levels of quality and determination. If both can be harnessed simultaneously, a place at the knockout-stage table is within reach.
COSTA RICA ROSTER
(FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014)
GOALKEEPERS: Daniel Cambronero (Herediano), Keylor Navas (Levante/Spain), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense)
DEFENDERS: Jhonny Acosta (Alajuelense), Junior Diaz (Mainz 05/Germany), Oscar Duarte (Club Brugge/Belgium), Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew/USA), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg/Norway), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Columbus Crew/USA), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls/USA), Dave Myrie (Herediano), Michael Umaña (Saprissa)
MIDFIELDERS: Michael Barrantes (Aalesunds/Norway), Cristian Bolaños (FC Copenhagen/Denmark), Celso Borges (AIK/Sweden), Diego Calvo (Valerenga/Norway), Jose Miguel Cubero (Herediano), Oscar Esteban Granados (Herediano), Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa)
FORWARDS: Randall Brenes (Cartagines), Joel Campbell (Olimpiacos/Greece), Bryan Ruiz (PSV Eindhoven/Holland), Marcos Ureña (Kuban Krasnodar/Russia)
Costa Rica World Cup Fixture List (Group D)
June 14: Uruguay (Fortaleza)
June 20: Italy (Recife)
June 24: England (Belo Horizonte)