After the disappointing 2-0 defeat away to Panama on Thursday, Los Ticos will be hoping to get back to winning ways when they face off against Martinique at home on Sunday.
Martinique, France’s tiny overseas island territory, is situated in the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea and has a proud footballing history.
Despite having a population of just over 375,000, several of France’s leading footballers are of Martinique heritage, including Thierry Henry and Raphaël Varane, and they are also the smallest populated team to win the Caribbean Cup. Additionally, the nation has qualified for the last 3 CONCACAF Gold Cups (falling at the group stage in each one).
As an overseas department of the French Republic, Martinique is not a member of FIFA and is therefore not eligible to enter the FIFA competitions. Martinique is, however, a member of CONCACAF and CFU, making them eligible for the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup.
As a result, they are a relatively unknown quantity for Los Ticos, with the 2 nations facing off just twice before (both ending in Costa Rica victories), with the last meeting 20 years ago.
The nation has several dangerous players that La Sele will have to watch out for, including strikers Mickaël Biron (of French Ligue 2 side AS Nancy) and Kévin Parsemain (the team’s all-time top goalscorer), as well as midfielders Kévin Appin (of Spanish Segunda División side UD Ibiza) and Cyril Mandouki (of French Ligue 2 side Paris FC).
Despite this threat, Costa Rica will still be confident of continuing the 100% win record against the diminutive Caribbean Island who have yet to win a Nations League game. Half their squad consists of local amateur players, and due to being ineligible for FIFA competitions, they rarely play together, with their last game being nearly a year ago.
Moreover, when facing a CONCACAF nation ranked outside the top 8, nothing short of a win is deemed acceptable for Los Ticos, and Martinique are currently ranked 11th.
In team news, coach Luis Fernando Suárez has been dealt a blow with captain Bryan Ruiz and defender Ian Lawrence missing with COVID. The duo should be back for the play-off fixture, but a COVID outbreak is not ideal for team preparation.
In addition, the influential Celso Borges has been nursing a knee injury in recent months, so don’t expect him to be risked. Akin to the Panama match, Suárez will also most likely wrap the likes of Joel Campell, Óscar Duarte, Francisco Calvo and Yeltsin Tejeda in cotton wool in anticipation of the World Cup play-off. So, another youthful looking line-up is plausible.
Of course, the looming contest against New Zealand will be firmly on the minds of players, staff and fans, but a win against Martinique could still go a long way in terms of morale, momentum, and confidence. Vital factors if Costa Rica are to prevail in the play-offs.
Martinique will make the 2500km journey to Costa Rica to face off at the Estadio Nacional on Sunday, kicking off at 11:00 UTC.
The players will be hoping to send the home fans off with a victory before they jet off to Doha, Qatar, for the massive World Cup playoff against New Zealand.