Costa Rica victory completes FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ line-up
An early goal from Joel Campbell was all Costa Rica needed to secure the 32nd and final spot for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, as the Central Americans defeated New Zealand 1-0 in their intercontinental play-off clash on Tuesday night.
As with Monday’s play-off match, which saw Australia edge Peru in a penalty shootout, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium – one of eight venues that will host matches at Qatar 2022 – provided the setting for the tournament’s final qualifying showdown. Costa Rica took part in Tuesday’s game after finishing fourth in CONCACAF qualifying, while New Zealand were the winners of the Oceania qualifying tournament that was held in Doha in March.
Though the All Whites carried the balance of play, they were unable to find a way past experienced goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who along with the Costa Rican defence, stood resolute in earning a clean sheet and booking Los Ticos’ third-straight appearance at international football’s showpiece event.
One of the defenders that played a part in Costa Rica’s win was Kendall Waston. The imposing centre back made some important defensive interventions in the second half after replacing Gerson Torres at half-time. The 34-year-old told qatar2022.qa he cannot wait to return to Qatar in November. “I want the time to fly, so I can come back soon, as we want to enjoy this World Cup,” said Waston. “It’s going to be something unique – and hopefully, we can play well and qualify for the next round. We have a hard group against Japan, Spain and Germany, but I’m looking forward to it.”
With qualification assured, Luis Suarez’s side are looking forward to planning for the most compact World Cup to be staged in the modern era, with many of the Costa Rican players having experienced the geographical challenges that came with participating in Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018. “It’s going to be nice,” defender Francisco Calvo said of Qatar 2022. “When we went to Brazil, there were long distances between cities, with flights of two to three hours, then returning back to our training base. Everything here is going to be close and that will be good. For me, it’s going to be one of the best World Cups in history. Qatar has all the conditions to do it, so we just need to enjoy it.”
Team preparation will be of utmost importance for the Central Americans, as Costa Rica are lined up against tough opposition in Group E. They will begin their campaign against Spain at Al Thumama Stadium on 23 November before meeting Asian powerhouses Japan at Ahmad Bin Ali on 27 November. They will conclude their group stage schedule when they face four-time champions Germany at Al Bayt Stadium on 1 December.
Victory over New Zealand proved useful in helping Costa Rica familiarise themselves with one of the stadiums they will appear in later this year. Waston said he was impressed with the quality and amenities that make up Ahmad Bin Ali. “The stadium is world-class, it’s top notch,” he said of the Al Rayyan-based venue. “I think Qatar has everything that you can ask for. The only thing is that in the World Cup, I think the stadium environment is going to be at 100% capacity, so we are going to enjoy it even more.”
Los Ticos also have an appreciation for the unique nature of this year’s World Cup, which is being held in the Middle East and Arab world for the first time. “It’s something different, it’s something new, and I’m happy that Costa Rica will be part of it,” said Calvo. “We just need to enjoy the World Cup and try to do our best. For now, it’s time to enjoy, to be happy, to rest and then work to prepare for the World Cup.”
Waston believes Qatar 2022 will be a memorable event and hopes many of his compatriots take up the opportunity to visit the country later this year. “What I think they will try to do is make this the best World Cup ever,” he said. “I’m sure people here will want to impress everybody and I think it will happen.”