In 2014, oddsmakers expected Costa Rica would not score a single goal

June 11, 2018

In preparing for the 2018 World Cup, we came across this Tico Times story published just before the 2014 tournament in Brazil. It’s a good reminder that miracles do happen. This year, Costa Rica’s chances to bring home the World Cup are 250 to one, according to ESPN and the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

The odds are not in Costa Rica’s favor at the 2014 World Cup. That’s actually putting it lightly. Bookmakers consider the odds probable that Costa Rica goes scoreless in all of the team’s three group stage matches.

But damn these haters, after seeing Netherlands bash World Cup defending champions Spain on Friday, Costa Rica has to be salivating at the opportunity to pull off its own stunner(s). Plus, the Ticos have have done it before during their magical run to the last-16 in Italy 1990. Costa Rica shocked the masses in its first World Cup ever by notching upset victories over Scotland and Sweden and advancing to the Round of 16 (where Czechoslovakia knocked out La Sele, 4-1).

Still, in Brazil 2014, the top two teams qualifying from the region — Costa Rica and the U.S. — face a monumental task to do as much as even qualify for the knockout stage in the World Cup, according to a number of prognosticators.

A Tico Times’ compilation of seven oddsmakers gave Costa Rica only a 16 percent chance to qualify out of its group that has former World Cup winners Uruguay, Italy and England. The U.S. has slightly better odds, at 33 percent, to advance out of a group with Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Oddsmakers gave the team a 1 percent chance of winning the tournament. Costa Rica’s chances are virtually zero.

In fact, the Ticos’ odds are so poor that the consensus among bookmakers is that the team will lose all three of their matches. Another bet asks which Costa Rican will lead the team in goals. The top option: “No goalscorer.” Joel Campbell is second.  If Costa Rica does manage a win or even a tie, there’s plenty of money to be made by those who support La Sele.

Here is what La Sele is up against. The Tico Times’ survey included four media outlets: 538, Bloomberg, The Economist and SBNation. Multinational bank Goldman Sachs was also included. Two old-school style oddsmakers – sports betting businesses – also were featured in the analysis. The graphics show each team’s odds at the start of the tournament (obviously, Spain’s chances have since decreased, while the Dutch are rising).


In the opening round of the World Cup, eight groups of four teams will play a round-robin. Two teams from each group will qualify for the knockout round: a single-elimination tournament that determines the champion.

One of the biggest things hurting Costa Rica and the U.S. is that fierce group. As The New York Times points out, Costa Rica drew the sixth toughest draw of the 32 World Cup teams.  The U.S. drew the 12th toughest draw. Mexico, the last team to qualify from the region, lucked out with the most favorable draw of any World Cup team.

As for the tournament’s eventual champion, host Brazil is the clear favorite. The country’s odds range from 45 percent to 21 percent. Argentina, Spain and Germany are the squads most likely to challenge Brazil for the title. At least until Friday afternoon, when the Netherlands demolished Spain, 5-1, in a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final.

While Costa Rica’s odds are low, at least The Ticos don’t endure the nasty wagers that English bookmakers make about England — the World Cup’s most pessimistic country. One bet asks if Uruguay’s Luis Suárez will outscore the entire England team (7/2 odds). Another wonders if England will be eliminated on penalty kicks (8/1), something the country has made a habit of doing in important matches. And then there’s: Will an English player cry when the team is eliminated (2/5)? That one includes the following fine print: “Must be real tears.”

Of course, those “real tears” could fall right as a result of Costa Rica. The Ticos won’t have time for sympathy when they meet the English in the teams’ final group stage match on June 24 in Belo Horizonte. They have World Cup supremacy to overthrow.

MORE STRANGE PROP BETS

  • Will a player fail a drug test during the tournament?
  • Which will be the first match to score 0-0?
  • Who will referee the World Cup final?
  • What company sponsored the jerseys of the winning team? (Lotto has the lowest odds. The sportswear manufacturer is sponsoring one team — Costa Rica)
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