Costa Rica Soccer – Costa Rica has been drawn into Group E for the World Cup alongside Brazil and Switzerland.
The Ticos will open the tournament against Serbia before facing Brazil in Saint Petersburg and closing out the group agianst Switzerland in Nizhny Novgorod.
Costa Rica returns to the World Cup for the fifth time in history and will look to match or improve upon its quarterfinal finish in 2014. On draw day four years ago, Costa Rica largely was written off. Once the tournament started, though, the Ticos were able to beat Uruguay and Italy and draw with England to win a group that contained three World Cup winners.
“History says that every time we face European teams we’ve had our best World Cups,” manager Oscar Ramirez told FIFA’s official site before the draw. “With what happened in 2014, nothing really scares us now so we have our head on a series with Europe and another team from this continent would be the best.”
Ramirez was especially bold to say that after a frustrating pair of November friendly matches. Costa Rica was embarassed by Spain, falling 5-0 to La Roja in Malaga. Days later against a Hungary team that failed to qualify for the World Cup, the Ticos fell by a more respectable 1-0 scoreline. In fact, Costa Rica closed the year out with five matches without a victory. The Ticos’ last victory came Sept. 1 against the United States.
The team will take heart, though, in the fact that many of the key players from the 2014 tournament are set to return in 2018. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas is back on the field for Real Madrid and will be key for Costa Rica. Celso Borges, a 29-year-old who also plays in La Liga, also needs to have a tremendous tournament for Costa Rica if the Ticos are going to get out of the group.
Captain Bryan Ruiz, whose two goals led the Central Americans in scoring at the World Cup, will be back as usual but needs to make a winter move to find regular playing time at the club level. He has played just 18 minutes for Sporting this season. Joel Campbell, who scored once at the 2014 World Cup, recently returned from injury for Real Betis but also has struggled to break through and find regular playing time. Center back Oscar Duarte also returned from a long-term injury absence recently, playing in both November friendly matches, but Espanyol coach Quique Sanchez Flores is waiting until he can play more minutes before giving him his club recall.
By Jon Arnold, Goal.com