San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

To keep World Cup hopes alive, Costa Rica must not stumble in El Salvador

If Costa Rica wants to return to the World Cup for the first time since 2006, the Ticos must not lose Friday night against El Salvador.

La Sele faces a challenge to reach the next round of qualifications for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The squad will play against a Salvadoran team looking for a major upset inside the boisterous confines of San Salvador’s Estadio Cuscatlan at 7:30 p.m.

An El Salvador win eliminates the Ticos, and moves the Salvadorans into the next round of qualifications.

At a press conference Thursday in El Salvador, Costa Rican head coach Jorge Luis Pinto said he’s confident the favored Ticos will not collapse on the road.

“We’re going to win,” Pinto said. “We only think about winning.”

If Costa Rica wins or ties El Salvador, the team still can be one of two teams to move out of Group B in the Concacaf region. Both teams play their final games of the round next Wednesday. Mexico, who plays Guyana on Friday, already has qualified for the next round. Guyana has been eliminated from World Cup qualifying.

That leaves only Costa Rica and El Salvador to battle it out for the last berth into the hexagonal round.

Pinto called the upcoming match, the “game of his life.”

The Salvadorans holds an advantage over Costa Rica after the teams tied in June in a match in San José. Costa Rica held a 2-0 lead in that match before El Salvador rallied.

El Salvador captain Dennis Alas told that he believes home-field advantage will help his squad overcome it s underdog status.

“We’re very much at ease, knowing that we’ve prepared diligently for three weeks for this game,” Alas told the website. “With a win on Friday we’ll progress to the next round, and we’re confident we can achieve that.”

Next Tuesday, Costa Rica takes on Guyana in San José and El Salvador will challenge Mexico in Torreon. Costa Rica will be a huge favorite against Guyana – but that game only matters if La Sele doesn’t stumble against El Salvador.

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