The year is 2014. The tournament is the FIFA World Cup. The host country is Brazil. The group stage is D. The country least expected to survive the death group is Costa Rica. That is, because other teams in Group D include Italy, England and Uruguay, all former world cup winner. And Costa Rica? Just happy to be included for the ride, thank you very much.
A cinderela story? A fairytale? Maybe. But it certainly was an astonishing football story.
It started with a 3-1 win over Uruguay and followed with a 1-0 stunner over Italy. The goalless draw against England was meaningless, because Costa Rica has already advanced to the round of 16 ranking first in Group D. Then came a 1-1 draw with Greece, a game that probably earned goalkeeper Keylor Navas his future contract for Real Madrid, before Costa Rica won 5-3 in penalties. The team draw again in the quarterfinals, this time with the Netherlands, only the ending was different, as the Orange won 4-3 in penalties. Costa Rica had gone as far as it could, farther than anyone has expected.
Costa Rica had always been a decent team, it just wasn't that good of a team. Until 2014, with so many players maturing at the right time. As a matter of fact, the red and blue are considered Central America's most successful team, with three CONCACAF (North, Central America and Caribbean) titles and five qualifications to world cup tournaments.
The national team's most caped player is Walter Centeno, with 137 appearances between 1995-2009. The top goal scorer is Rolando Fonseca with 47 goals in 113 caps. But star player, the one considered to be the best player in the history of Costa Rica football, was, of course, Paulo Wanchope. The big striker didn't waste a minute after arriving to the Premier League in March 1997. In his first game for Derby County, Wanchope didn't take long before scoring twice against champions Manchester United in old Traford in a 3-2 win. His second goal, when he received the ball close to the half line and moved past four United defenders, was voted best in derby's history by adoring fans. In all, Wanchope played for eight seasons in England, moving from Derby to West Ham United and then to Manchester City, scoring a total of 62 goals in 171 appearances. He also scored 45 goals in 73 caps for Costa Rica, ranking second on the all-time list.
The national team play its home games in the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose, a 35,175 seat, all-purpose facility.
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