WC participations 2 (1990, 2002)
WC honours Last sixteen 1990
Continental Titles Seven times CCCF champions (1941, 1946, 1948, 1953, 1955, 1960, 1961), three times Concacaf champions (1963, 1969, 1989), Central American champions (1993)
Costa Rica seek to emulate past glories
In recent times, Costa Rica have become a regular sight at the world’s top tournaments, and the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ will be no exception. Although their qualification was far from plain sailing, Alexandre Guimaraes’s side came good in the end and are now preparing to embark for Europe in a bid to upset the established order.
Not even the Ticos would deny that they made very hard work of the early qualifying rounds. In spite of being overwhelming favourites, they almost came unstuck against first-stage opponents Cuba, only going through on away goals after the pair played out two score draws. The first group phase was a similar story, with only a nervy 0-0 draw in their final game in Honduras putting them through to the final phase.
Things showed little sign of improving when the six-team final round got under way. A 2-1 home defeat by Mexico, a 3-0 loss away to the United States and a goalless draw in Trinidad and Tobago was not the start they had hoped for. The only encouragement came from a 2-1 win over Panama – and even that came courtesy of a last-minute Roy Myre goal.
However, the return of Guimaraes, the coach who guided the Ticos to Korea/Japan 2002, in place of Jorge Luis Pinto at the start of April 2005 coincided with an upturn in the team’s fortunes. With Guimaraes at the helm, Costa Rica defeated Guatemala (3-2), Panama (3-1), T&T (2-1) and the USA (3-0) to secure a berth in Germany. The only blemishes on the new coach’s record were losses to Mexico (2-0) and Guatemala (3-1).
Germany 2006 will be Costa Rica’s third appearance at the FIFA World Cup™. It would no exaggeration to say that both their previous appearances – Italia 90 and Korea/Japan 2002 – were memorable, with the Central Americans surprising the world with their uninhibited play and supremely talented individuals.
Scotland and Sweden fans must still have nightmares about the explosive pace of Hernan Medford and magnificent shot-stopping of Luis Gabelo Conejo, the Costa Rican heroes who helped their side reach the second round in Italy at the expense of their European rivals. Unfortunately, it was a feat they could not match in Asia, in spite of their often spectacular play. Although their only defeat came at the hands of Brazil, Turkey’s superior goal difference prevented the Ticos from claiming a berth in the last 16.
In spite of their fraught qualifying campaign, it would be a serious mistake to write off Costa Rica. The current team is every bit as talented as those of previous years and just as determined to cause an upset at the finals.
Costa Rica fans around the world will be able to enjoy the fearless defending of Gilberto Martinez, the bravery of Walter Centeno and, of course, the goal-scoring prowess of their biggest star, Paulo Wanchope. The veteran striker, who will be retiring from international football after the finals, is hoping to inspire his side to a performance at least on a par with that of Italy 90.
Costa Rica have taken part in every FIFA World Cup™ qualifying competition since 1958, winning through to the finals in 1990 and 2002. They proved one of the surprises of Italy '90, racking up two memorable wins against European sides when they defeated Scotland 1-0 and Sweden 2-1.
Their campaign ended in the round of sixteen, where they were crushed 4-1 by Czechoslovakia. Costa Rica put in another strong performance in 2002, only going out in the group round on goal difference to eventual semi-finalists Turkey.
Their best result came in 1946, when they beat Panama 12-0. Their most ignominious defeat was at the hands of Mexico, who beat them 7-0 in 1975.