- Capital: San José
- Official Languages: Spanish
- Recognised Regional Languages: Bribri, Mekatelyu, Patois
- Nicknames: Los Ticos; La Sele (The Selection); La Tricolor
- Association: Federación Costarricense de Fútbol (FEDEFUT)
- FIFA Code: CRC
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Quarter Finals (2014)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Group Stage (2015)
- Best Gold Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1963, 1969, 1989)
- Best Gold Cup Result (Women): Finalists (2014)
- Best Copa América Result (Men): Quarter Finals (2001, 2004)
- Best Copa Centroamericana Result (Men): WINNERS (8 times)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 13th (February-March 2015)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 29th (December 2016)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 93rd (July 1996)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 106th (March 2010)
- Most Capped Player: Celso Borges – 138 caps [as of July 2021]
- Top Scorer: Rolando Fonseca – 47 goals
The Republic of Costa Rica (República de Costa Rica) is a country situated in the southern part of Central America. It has two land borders with Nicaragua to the north, and Panama to the south, with the Pacific Ocean on its southwestern coast, and the Caribbean Sea on its northeastern coast. The country gained its initial freedom from the Spanish Empire in 1821, and then gained its full independence from the Federal Republic of Central America in 1838. The Costa Rican FA was founded in 1921, with the country playing its first international game against fellow Central American side El Salvador in the same year, beating them 7-0 in the Independence Centenary Games held in Guatemala (in a tournament Costa Rica would win by beating the hosts 6-0 in the final). It would be another six years later before Costa Rica became a full member of FIFA, and became a member of CONCACAF in 1961.
Throughout the 1960s, Costa Rica were considered the second best side in CONCACAF behind Mexico, but due to CONCACAF having just one qualifying spot during this period, they were unable to qualify for any World Cups. Despite this disappointment, they did manage to win two continental competitions during the same period, including winning the very first CONCACAF Championship in 1963. Held in El Salvador, Los Ticos finished above the hosts in the final group round to lift the trophy to become the inaugural CONCACAF champions. They would repeat the feat in 1969, in the fourth CONCACAF Championship organised by the confederation. Held on home soil, Costa Rica managed to stay undefeated throughout the tournament to lift their second continental trophy by finishing a point ahead of runners-up Guatemala. Sadly their period of success would fade throughout the 1970s and 1980s as other countries within CONCACAF rose in prominence and qualified for World Cups as the number of CONCACAF qualification spots was increased.
It wouldn’t be until the end of the 1980s when Costa Rica became a regional power once again. They would take part in the 1989 CONCACAF Championship (the final one before it became the Gold Cup) which also acted as a qualifier for the 1990 World Cup. Despite starting their campaign with a defeat, Los Ticos managed to finish top of the Championship to both win the title and finally qualify for their debut World Cup. In Italia ‘90, Costa Rica were drawn in a very difficult group alongside Brazil, Sweden, and Scotland, and were expected to be the “whipping boys” of the group. However La Tricolor stunned the football world by firstly achieving a 1-0 victory over Scotland, following it up with a creditable 1-0 defeat to Brazil, before achieving a 2-1 victory over Sweden to progress to the knockouts as the group runners-up. Sadly their fairytale debut ended in the Round of 16 when they were comprehensively defeated 4-1 by Czechoslovakia, but the Costa Ricans had finally announced themselves on the world stage in impressive fashion!
Surprisingly, despite their heroics in 1990, it would be another 12 years before Costa Rica played in their second World Cup, this time qualifying for the 2002 edition in South Korea and Japan. Despite defeating China PR and drawing eventual third-place finishers Turkey in the group stage, they failed to progress out of the group stage after losing 2-5 to Brazil in their final group game ensured Turkey progressed on goal difference. Nonetheless, it was a successful period for Costa Rica as they also reached the final of the 2002 Gold Cup, beating Haiti and South Korea (a guest team) en route to the final, but lost to the hosts USA 2-0 to miss out on their fourth continental title.
Costa Rica qualified for the next World Cup in 2006, but their third appearance in the World Cup didn’t go to plan, losing all three group games to finish bottom of the group. They agonisingly missed out on qualification for South Africa in 2010 by losing the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL playoff to Uruguay 2-1 on aggregate after two legs, after finishing fourth in the CONCACAF “Super Six” qualification round. However, success would arrive for the country during the 2014 World Cup when they qualified for their fourth World Cup as the second best team in CONCACAF qualifying (behind America). Initially they were given a tough looking group (once again) by being drawn with three former World Cup winners; Uruguay, Italy, and England. However impressive victories over Uruguay (3-1) and Italy (1-0) confirmed their progression to the knockout stage, before a goalless draw with England in their final group game ensured they topped their tough group and conceded just a single goal. The success would continue in the knockouts when they played Greece in the Round of 16. Despite conceding an injury time equaliser after Bryan Ruiz had given them the lead early in the second half, they managed to hold their nerve in the subsequent penalty shootout by scoring all five of their spot kicks to win 5-3 and progress to the quarter finals for the very first time. Once again they impressed against more illustrious opposition by holding the Netherlands to a goalless draw for 120 minutes. Sadly they could not repeat the feat of their previous game as two penalties were saved by specialist sub Tim Krul to ensure they exited the competition 4-3 on penalties. Regardless, they were widely praised for their performance and had been the surprise package of the tournament.
FIFA’s Highlights of Costa Rica’s 2014 World Cup Run:
- Costa Rica vs. Uruguay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vDzaBe9wUE
- Costa Rica vs. Italy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3pF3xLGZes
- Costa Rica vs. England: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aErmgrbd6lw
- Costa Rica vs. Greece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgGcAz3vmkA
- Costa Rica vs. Netherlands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_J-swtym3w
Naturally Costa Rica have been unable to reach the heights of 2014 since. They qualified for the 2018 World Cup as CONCACAF’s second best team during the qualification phase, but subsequently struggled in the group stage of the tournament. Drawn in a group with Brazil, Switzerland, and Serbia, they suffered two scrappy yet unfortunate defeats to Serbia and Brazil (which included two injury time goals for Brazil) which resulted in their elimination before earning themselves a deserved 2-2 draw with the Swiss, which included a 93rd minute equaliser to earn themselves some credit as their World Cup campaign concluded.
- Costa Rica vs. Switzerland in the 2018 World Cup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izvscMabH8o
In the most recent editions of the Gold Cup, Costa Rica reached the quarter finals in both 2019 and 2021 tournaments (the former they co-hosted with USA and Jamaica) losing to Mexico on penalties after a 1-1 draw, and Canada 2-0 respectively. They are also the most successful team in the history of Copa Centroamerica (a competition held between 1991 and 2017 for Central American countries before it was absorbed into the CONCACAF Nations League) by winning the competition eight times, and currently occupy a spot in the top tier of the Nations League. Finally, the country automatically qualified for the final qualifying round for qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. Having been seeded as the third-best team in CONCACAF and receiving a bye into the final round of qualification, there are strong hopes that Costa Rica can qualify for their seventh World Cup by gaining one of the three automatic spots, or potentially via the inter-confederation playoffs should they finish fourth in the final group.
To talk about the most successful side in Central America who reached the quarter finals of the 2014 World Cup, we interviewed the brilliant Julian from The Hispanic Wall. They are a Costa Rican-based account who act as the focal point for all fans of the Welsh national team based in the Spanish-speaking areas of Latin America, by reporting on all things involving the Welsh national team, and Welsh football in general, in the Spanish language. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best-ever player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
Keylor Navas [34-year-old goalkeeper] – a 3 time UEFA Champions League champion with Real Madrid [but now currently at Paris Saint-Germain having moved there from Real Madrid in 2019] is the best-ever player of the country. For the best-ever coach, it has to be Jorge Luis Pinto who is a Colombian coach [managing the Costa Rican national team on two separate occasions: 2004-2005, and 2011-2014] and took us to the World Cup quarter-finals in Brazil 2014 for the first time in our history.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Paulo César Wanchope [striker who scored 45 goals in 73 games for Costa Rica, which makes him the second highest goalscorer in the country’s history, and famously played for Derby County, West Ham United, and Manchester City in the English Premier League], and Bryan Ruiz [35-year-old striker who has scored 27 goals in 132 appearances for the national team (at the time of writing), and famously played for Gent, Twente, Fulham, PSV Eindhoven, and Sporting CP during his career, but is currently back playing at his first club Liga Deportiva Alajuelense] in their best years.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Costa Rica currently?
I think it has to be Joel Campbell [29-year-old forward/winger who previously played for Arsenal, but is currently on loan at Mexican side Monterrey from fellow Liga MX side León].
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
A generation change is currently happening in the squad with many of the successful 2010s squad retiring or being replaced by younger players. However, the young lads are still not ready yet.
Q. Are there any Costa Rican players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
Manfred Ugalde – a 19-year-old forward currently at Dutch club Twente (but on loan from Belgian club Lommel) could be a good player in the future.
Q. Looking at Costa Rica’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
Some will say the victory on penalties against Greece in the second round of the 2014 World Cup [winning 5-3 in the penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw], but the 2-1 victory against Mexico in Mexico City [a match known as the Aztecazo, and gave Mexico their first ever qualification defeat at the iconic Azteca Stadium] during qualification for the 2002 World Cup held in South Korea and Japan is one of this moments that you can’t forget.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
It has to be Germany 2006 – our biggest mistake in the World Cup [where they lost all three of their group games against Germany, Ecuador, and Poland to finish bottom of the group].
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Costa Rican national team?
The best: the patriotism and being proud in a small country of 5 million. Being with coworkers, friends, and/or family and watching the matches is a feeling which I can’t describe.
The worst: the domestic violence, and the fanatism that became racism.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
“Ole Ole Ole Ole Ticos Ticos” – If you hear that, you will see a Costa Rican!
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
The Germany 2006 shirt is pretty, as is the shirt used for Brazil 2014 too.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Costa Rican national team?
I hope with my heart that the new young players can become a success on the pitch, and bring happiness to this country.
A massive muchas gracias to Julian from The Hispanic Wall for answering our questions on Los Ticos. Remember you can find their excellent account in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.