If Sunday’s 4-3 win over future World Cup host Russia was any indication, Costa Rica’s men’s national team will be right at home if it qualifies for the 2018 World Cup.
With a penalty kick in extra time from Joel Campbell, La Sele sealed the one-goal win Sunday at Krasnodar Stadium in Russia.
The impressive performance began when La Sele built an early lead with a pair of gorgeous goals from midfielders Randall Azofeifa and Bryan Ruíz.
After La Sele built a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead, however, the defense struggled to contain Russia’s attack – even with star goalkeeper Keylor Navas back in the lineup for the first time in seven months. In the 31st minute, Russia played a volley into the box that connected with a diving Alexander Samedov, who headed it past a frozen Navas.
La Sele was able to build back its two-goal lead right before halftime with an own goal from Russia. In the second period, Campbell’s injury-time goal came after the substitute was tripped in the penalty box. Costa Rica remains undefeated when Campbell scores for La Sele.
“It’s an excellent result against an opponent like Russia,” said Costa Rican coach Oscar Ramírez. “We played better in the first half while Russia performed really well in the first 15 minutes after the break. The draw probably would have been the fairest result, but we were awarded a penalty and took advantage with the fourth goal.”
The win is only Costa Rica’s fifth in 18 total games on the old continent. According to Spanish football analyst Alexis Martín-Tamayo, known as Mr. Chip, it’s the first time in more than a century that an international opponent has come into Russia and scored four goals against the host country.
Ramírez said after the friendly that he was satisfied with his team’s offensive output, but that there needs to be more consistency from a defensive backline that has often struggled against better competition under Ramírez’s watch.
Still, the head coach said he was satisfied with the road win and optimistic about what lies ahead.
“We’re trying to break barriers, and our goal remains to be among the top 10 teams in the world,” Ramírez told reporters.
Even with the three goals allowed, there’s no denying this is a promising result for La Sele, which will need to have continued success on the road to ensure a qualifying spot for the 2018 World Cup. The national team resumes qualifying play next month when it travels to Trinidad & Tobago on Nov. 11.