Want to root for Costa Rica’s national team during its march to Brazil? Read this handy guide to learn what you need to know about tonight’s match against Jamaica (or just skip to number 6 for a funny video). The game starts at 6 p.m. local time.
1. Costa Rican can qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil on Tuesday night
Despite leading the region, the Ticos need some help tonight if they’re going to clinch their first World Cup berth since 2006. In fact, La Sele’s best hope rides on the squad it just vanquished: the United States.
Here are the scenarios:
-If Costa Rica wins in Kingston, and the United States ties or defeats Mexico then the Ticos are going to Brazil.
-If Costa Rica ties Jamaica, and the United States defeats Mexico and Honduras ties or defeats Panama then the Ticos are going to Brazil.
-The Costa Rican squad also can book its ticket to Brazil if La Sele wins in Jamaica and Panama triumphs in Honduras.
The United States plays reeling Mexico in Columbus, Ohio at the same time as the Costa Rican match. Panama takes on Honduras in Tegucigalpa an hour later. If Costa Rica fails to qualify today, the Ticos almost definitely will seize a World Cup berth during one of its final two qualifiers in October.
2. Costa Rica has never qualified for the World Cup with a victory on the road
The rule of thumb in Concacaf qualifying is that if win your home games and tie on the road, then you’ll make the World Cup. Not surprisingly, the three times Costa Rica has reached the World Cup (1990, 2002, 2006), the national team sealed up its spot in the tournament while playing in San José.
It’s not easy to clinch a World Cup bid away from home, but La Sele certainly has a good shot to do so in Kingston.
3. Costa Rica dominates teams from the Caribbean
One reason Costa Rica crushes teams from the Caribbean is because Caribbean nations are not very good at soccer. Jamaica, being a Caribbean nation, has a history of playing soccer poorly.
La Sele actually hasn’t lost to a Caribbean team in a World Cup Qualifying match since 2000, when Costa Rica endured 2-1 loss to Barbados. The team’s only defeat to the Reggae Boyz occurred in 1997. Jamaica qualified that year for the 1998 World Cup, its only appearance in the international tournament.
Overall, the Ticos are 7-1-1 all-time against Jamaica in qualifiers. Costa Rica already shut out the Reggae Boyz, 2-0, in the Estadio Nacional last March. A upset at the hands of Jamaica — currently last in the Concacaf region — would be a huge disappointment.
4. Jamaicans don’t really care about the World Cup
The former British colony prefers more cultivated sports like cricket. Ho-hum. Or Jamaicans would rather watch the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt shoot by his competition. But soccer? Well, it’s hard to get Jamaicans excited about the Reggae Boyz.
So far Jamaica has failed to sell out Tuesday’s match, even with tickets going as cheap as $15. Meanwhile Costa Rica will have a substantial presence at Kingston’s Estadio Nacional. Apparently, 1,500 Ticos are flying in to watch the match.
5. Costa Rica will be without two of its biggest stars in Kingston
Despite the apathy in Jamaica, the Reggae Boyz have talented squad and La Sele will be dealing with some problems of its own. Goalie Keylor Navas made some spectacular saves against the U.S. to help his team pull out the win. But he picked up his second yellow card of the qualifying round during a take down of U.S. player Fabian Johnson. That means Navas earned a one-match suspension. Patrick Pemberton will start in goal for La Sele.
Forward Alvaro Saborío did not travel with the team to Jamaica, after he suffered an injury to his right left. The Real Salt Lake pro is one of the top scorers in Major League Soccer, but a torn calf muscle will keep him off the pitch for a couple weeks.
Midfielder Christian Bolaños also will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation.
6. Costa Rica’s best actor (and maybe best player) will be on the field
Rising star Joel Campbell earned some notoriety this weekend after the US national team highlighted a ludicrous flop. The winger leisurely strolled behind U.S. defender Matt Besler before suddenly falling to the ground and writhing in pain. Besler, who never touched Campbell, received a yellow card and will miss the Mexico match (ironically it’s a game that Costa Rica prefers the United States would win; see #2). See the Oscar-worthy flop here:
The speedster showed that his skills extend beyond dramaturgy when he outraced two U.S. players to score the final goal in Friday’s match. Campbell perhaps has the most potential of any player on the Costa Rican squad.
For what it’s worth, Costa Rica’s biggest star Bryan Ruiz soon will receive his own lessons in award-winning acting. At the recommendation of teammate Celso Borges, Ruiz has started watching the hit TV show Breaking Bad. Yes, he’s just beginning now. Please no spoilers.
7. After missing out twice before, Costa Rica’s coach finally thinks he’s going to the World Cup
“This time I will go,” announced coach Jorge Luis Pinto on Monday. It would take a massive collapse for Costa Rica to not qualify for the World Cup in one of its three remaining games. And you have to feel good for Pinto, who on two occasions has come oh-so-close to coaching a World Cup squad.
In 2005, the Colombian was sacked in favor of Alexandre Guimarães (father of Celso Borges) before the 2006 tournament in Germany. In 2007, while coaching the Colombian squad, his team did suffer a massive collapse and missed out on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Pinto isn’t partying just yet. But by 8 p.m. it might be time to break out the bubbly as Costa Rica celebrates its return to the World Cup.
Jamaica v Costa Rica 8 p.m.
At Columbus, Ohio
United States v Mexico 8 p.m.
Honduras v Panama 9 p.m.
Concacaf Standings (W-L-D; 3 matches remain)
Costa Rica 4-1-2 14 points
United States 4-2-1 13 points
Honduras 3-3-1 10 points
Mexico 1-1-5 8 points
Panama 1-2-4 7 points
Jamaica 0-4-3 3 points
(Top 3 teams advance to World Cup; 4th team plays New Zealand for berth)