Fifa World Cup 2018: Costa Rica hinges on Joel, Navas to upset favourites

Players of Costa Rica National team pose before CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage game against Honduras National team at Red Bulls Arena Costa Rica. Photo:
Four years after their stunning last-eight finish at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Costa Rica will look forward to another trip to football's biggest stage in FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia.

The Central American nation won a group in Brazil that included England, Italy and Uruguay and only lost in the quarter-finals in a penalty shootout to the Netherlands in 2014 FIFA World Cup. This time, in its fifth appearance at the World Cup, Costa Rica will be taking on eternal favourites Brazil and two solid European sides in Switzerland and Serbia in Group E. However, they won't be underestimated in Russia.

Coach Oscar Ramirez has announced the team's 23-man roster, featuring 12 players who were part of 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. These players, with an average age of 29 and boasting valuable experience, have known each other well and competed together for the last eight years. Ramirez can rely on a number of seasoned players with European experience, including captain Bryan Ruiz of Sporting Lisbon, Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, former Arsenal striker Joel Campbell, and midfielder Celso Borges of Deportivo La Coruna.

Keylor Navas
Navas is Costa Rica's best-known player and his strong performance in Brazil secured a move in 2014 to Real Madrid, where he has become one of the world's top keepers. Navas has won almost everything with Real Madrid and remained in top form this season, helping his club win the Champions League title again. Midfielder Ruiz was vital in the run into the quarterfinals four years ago and will be the main attacking threat in Russia. Meanwhile Joel Campbell first Costa Rican to play for Arsenal will boost the Costa Rica side like he did in Brazil. In the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Joel scored a crucial goal against Uruguay in the group stages, which helped them to reach round in which he scored a goal of penalty to help Costa Rica to come victorious against Greece as they reached the quarter-finals of 2014 FIFA World Cup. The forward also helped his country reach the last eight at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and was an integral part of Costa Rica’s Copa America Centenario squad last summer.

Costa Rica made their World Cup debut in the 1990 World Cup when they reached the last 16 under coach Bora Milutinovic. Costa Rica will open their campaign against Serbia on June 17, then take on Brazil on June 22 and close out their group stage competition against Switzerland on June 27.

Coach: Oscar Ramirez

Star player: Keylor Navas

World Cup best: Quarter-finals 2014

Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas (Real Madrid, Spain), Patrick Pemberton (Liga Deportiva Alajuelense), Leonel Moreira (Herediano);

Defenders: Cristian Gamboa (Celtic, Scotland), Ian Smith (Norrkoping, Sweden), Ronald Matarrita (New York City, USA), Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland, England), Oscar Duarte (Espanyol, Spain), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Bologna, Italy), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United, USA), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps, Canada), Johnny Acosta (Aguilas Dorados, Colombia);

Midfielders: David Guzman (Portland Timbers, USA), Yeltsin Tejeda (Lausanne-Sport, Switzerland), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruna, Spain), Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Rodney Wallace (New York City, USA), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting CP, Portugal), Daniel Colindres (Saprissa), Christian Bolanos (Saprissa);

Forwards: Johan Venegas (Saprissa), Joel Campbell (Real Betis, Spain), Marco Urena (LAFC, USA).
With agency input

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