Al-Rayyan, Qatar (AP) – Costa Rican stars including Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell and Brian Ruiz made national football history in an unforgettable run to the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals.
They were all there on Tuesday, all involved in over 100 caps, all of which were key to a 1-0 win over New Zealand in the Intercontinental World Cup qualifiers for last place in Qatar 2022.
They all got a ticket back to Qatar for Costa Rica in November and their third consecutive World Cup together.
“Today is a joyful day,” said Navas, the captain and goalkeeper, whose saves late in the game maintained Campbell’s third-minute lead. “We played so many finals to be here, we played so many matches we knew we couldn’t make any mistakes. Today was another one of those.”
Costa Rica completed their 32-nation World Cup squad by holding out a New Zealand team that had recovered since the early setback to control possession and create more and better scoring opportunities.
New Zealand pressed, Navas responded, even after dropping to 10 men in the final quarter of the match at the air-conditioned Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium on the outskirts of Doha.
Two major decisions occurred after a video review against the New Zealanders, disallowing Chris Wood’s potential equalizer in the 39th minute and ensuring he was awarded a red card in the 69th minute for a foul by Costa Barbaraos. The midfielder was on the field as a substitute for only nine minutes.
In the jittery late stages, Navas climbed up to push a left-footed shot off Clayton Lewis and came down to block Wood’s low push.
It lifted Costa Rica to a World Cup place that seemed unlikely after a slow start last year in the eight-team qualifying group for North, Central America and the Caribbean.
“This team shows what it means to be a Costa Rican. They never quit, they always give 100%,” said coach Luis Fernando Suarez, whose players scored four consecutive wins in February and March to secure the play-off entry.
New Zealand again failed the final qualification test. That loss for the Oceania champions in an intercontinental playoff came after Mexico were knocked out in the 2014 tournament and Peru four years later.
New Zealand coach Danny Hay said his team showed exceptional spirit under difficult circumstances.
“They brought in a lot of mana for themselves and the game,” he said.
Costa Rica coach Suarez scored a hat-trick in the World Cup. He had previously led Ecuador to the 2006 championship and Honduras there in 2014.
“It’s an obsession I’ve always pursued,” Suarez said. “Being in this position is nice.”
A tough task awaits at the World Cup where Suarez and his team will face two of the three former Champions of Group E. Spain will be the first opponent on November 23, followed by Japan and Germany.
Costa Rica scored from their first attack when Campbell, the former Arsenal striker, muscular between two defenders near the penalty spot to meet a low pass from teenager Joyson Bennett. Campbell directed a low left-footed shot into the far corner of the net.
A place in the World Cup was the perfect gift for Bennett, who turns 18 on Wednesday.
CONCACAF now matches the traditional strength of South America with four teams in the last World Cup, which includes 32 nations.
Costa Rica joins Canada, the United States and Mexico – the three host countries of the expanded 48-team tournament in 2026 – which advanced directly in March from the regional qualifiers.
Peru loses play-off against Australia On Monday in Qatar, the challenge in South America was limited to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and – for now – Ecuador.
Ecuador’s place is challenged by Chile In a dispute over an alleged ineligible player. Chile is targeting an appeal after FIFA closed a disciplinary investigation last week.
Chile’s suspended appeal means Tuesday’s play-off is not the last word in the World Cup squad, nor even the last game in the three-year global qualifying programme.
FIFA orders Brazil and Argentina to replay the match Their game was abandoned last September in chaotic scenes. Brazilian health officials came to the stadium to object to the quarantine status of some Argentine players.
FIFA listed the game on September 21, just two months earlier from November 21 to December. 18 championships.
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