Friendlies with benefits

Joel Campbell among Costa Rican stars playing in World Cup warm-up against Paraguay next Wednesday

The Costa Rica Men’s National Team announced its lineup for an international friendly against Paraguay. The match is set for next Wednesday at 8 p.m. in San José’s National Stadium. As expected, head coach Jorge Luis Pinto presented a roster made up of the team’s biggest stars for Costa Rica’s lone home warm-up before the World Cup.

Joel Campbell, who thrilled the soccer world this week with a fantastic golazo against Manchester United, leads the group of Ticos returning home for the match. Bryan Ruíz, Álvaro Saborío and breakout star goalie Keylor Navas also are names to watch.

Tickets are on sale for the match at www.specialticket.net. Prices range from ₡10,000 ($20) to ₡40,000 ($80).

Since Costa Rica qualified for the World Cup last October, the squad has been winless and scoreless in three international friendlies — all against fellow World Cup qualifiers. But Costa Rica played those matches without its most talented players as Pinto evaluated the team’s reserves.

A few unexpected faces will try to demonstrate against Paraguay why they deserve a spot on the national team. John Jairo Ruiz, Óscar Duarte, Marco Ureña and Waylon Francis are all intriguing names vying for a spot on the World Cup roster.

Notably missing from the roster is Bryan Oviedo, the one Costa Rican currently in England’s vaunted Premier League (Campbell and Ruíz both have contracts with Premier League teams but currently are on loan; Navas could sign his own Premier League contract soon). Oviedo is recovering — rather quickly — from a broken leg that many assumed would keep him out of the World Cup.

The visiting Paraguayan team failed to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and finished last in South America qualifying. No South American team is a pushover, but Costa Rica must feel that this is a key opportunity to prove itself and impress with the World Cup a little more than three months away.

Costa Rica has friendlies scheduled against World Cup qualifiers Japan and Ghana in late May and early June. Those games will take place in the United States. Costa Rica’s first World Cup match is on June 14 against Uruguay.

Here’s the full Costa Rican lineup for the Paraguay match. The list also features four players from the U.S. professional league, including Saborío, the league’s 2013 Latino Player of the Year.

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