World Cup team preview: Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Costa Rica are playing in their fifth World Cup, although they may struggle to match their achievements four years ago when they reached the quarter-finals.

Los Ticos emerged from a tough Group D as winners four years ago after beating Uruguay (3-1) and Italy (1-0) before drawing with England (0-0). They knocked out Greece on penalties in the round of 16, but fell to the Netherlands in the last eight following another shootout.

It was their best showing in the finals, having made it to the round of 16 as debutants in 1990, while they failed to get out of the group stages in 2002 and 2006.

Oscar Ramirez’s side were drawn in Group E alongside Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland for the 2018 edition in Russia. They suffered just two defeats in qualifying, against Mexico (2-0) and Panama (2-1), to finish second behind El Tri.

Ramirez has selected an experienced squad with just five players having won less than 30 caps. Celso Borges and Bryan Ruiz have each amassed over 100 appearances for their country, while Norrkoping right-back Ian Smith is the newest addition and the youngest at the age of 20.

The defence will be key for Costa Rica, one that is marshalled by Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who is by far the biggest name in their squad. A superb display from the 31-year-old at Brazil 2014 earned him a dream move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The other players plying their trade in Europe’s top-five leagues are Deportivo La Coruna midfielder Borges, Bologna centre-back Giancarlo Gonzalez, Espanyol defender Oscar Duarte and Real Betis forward Joel Campbell. Sporting CP winger Ruiz will skipper the team and is crucial to their counter-attacking style which served them so well at the global showpiece in Brazil.

The Central Americans have not had the best of run-ins to Russia 2018, winning just two of their six friendlies since the qualifying campaign and losing the other four, including a heavy 5-0 defeat to Spain.

Costa Rica open their World Cup account against Serbia on June 17, before taking on Brazil and Switzerland – the latter fixture their best hope of claiming three points. A draw against the Eagles could yet see them progress from Group D.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas (Real Madrid), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense), Leonel Moreira (Herediano).

Defenders: Johnny Acosta (Rionegro Aguilas), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Bologna), Ian Smith (Norrkoping), Oscar Duarte (Espanyol), Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United), Cristian Gamboa (Celtic), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps), Ronald Matarrita (New York City).

Midfielders: Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruna), Christian Bolanos (Saprissa), Daniel Colindres (Saprissa), Rodney Wallace (New York City), Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Yeltsin Tejeda (Lausanne-Sport), David Guzman (Portland Timbers).

Forwards: Joel Campbell (Real Betis), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting CP), Johan Venegas (Saprissa), Marco Urena (Los Angeles FC).