COSTA Rica were considered dark horses by some judges before the World Cup draw, and while it's not going to be easy for them, I'm keen not to rule them out.


Outright odds: 2500/1

To win group: 25/1

To qualify: 10/1


Full squad: Keilor Navas (Levante), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense), Daniel Cambronero (Herediano), Johnny Acosta (Alajuelense), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Columbus Crew), Michael Umana (Saprissa), Oscar Duarte (Club Bruges), Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew), Heiner Mora (Saprissa), Junior Diaz (Mainz 05), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls), Celso Borges (AIK Stockholm), Christian Bolanos (FC Copenhagen), Oscar Esteban Granados (Herediano), Michael Barrantes (Aalesund), Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa), Diego Calvo (Valerenga Oslo), Jose Miguel Cubero (Herediano), Bryan Ruiz (PSV Eindhoven), Joel Campbell (Arsenal/Olympiakos), Randall Brenes (Cartagines), Marco Urena (FC Kuban Krasnodar)

Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto

World Cup record: Last 16 (1990), Group stage (2002, 2006)

How they qualified (most recent first): Second to the USA in CONCACAF's final round, having previously chased home Mexico in a four-team pre-qualification group in which Guyana and El Salvador were outclassed.

v Panama (away) 2-2 (HT 1-2) Saborio 39 Ruiz 84

v United States (away) 0-1 (HT 0-1)

v Jamaica (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Umana 22, Calvo 82

v Honduras (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Miller 25

v Mexico (away) 0-0 (HT 0-0)

v Panama (home) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Ruiz 49, Borges 52

v United States (home) 3-1 (HT 2-1) Acosta 3, Borges 10, Campbell 76

v Jamaica (away) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Brenes 74

v Honduras (away) 0-1 (HT 0-0)

v Mexico (home) 2-1 (HT 1-1) Ruiz 24, Saborio 63

v Guyana (home) 7-0 (HT 2-0) Brenes 10, 48, Gamboa 14, Saborio 51p, 77', Bolanos 61, Borges 70

v El Salvador (away) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Cubero 31

v Mexico (away) 0-1 (HT 0-0)

v Mexico (home) 0-2 (HT 0-1)

v Guyana (away) 4-0 (HT 2-0) Saborio 20, 26, 52, Campbell 72

v El Salvador (home) 2-2 (HT 2-1) Saborio 10, Campbell 15

Goalscorers: Focusing on the more competitive final group stage for statistical purposes, Bryan Ruiz led the way with three goals, with both Celso Borges and Alvaro Saborio contributing two each (the latter also bagged five in the previous stage). Six players including Joel Campbell and Johnny Acosta managed one.

Half-time/full-time: Three of Costa Rica's five wins saw them lead at half-time, while only once did they come from behind to secure a draw.

Clean sheets: Costa Rica kept four clean sheets at a ratio of 40%; they came against the four sides that finished beneath them.

Win to nil: Costa Rica managed three wins to nil, each of which came at home. Therefore the majority (three from five) of their wins were without conceding.

Cards: Costa Rica's games produced a total of 33 cards at an average of 3.3 per game, with no red cards but only one game which saw none of any description handed out.

Other competitive internationals (most recent first): On home soil, Costa Rica won Copa Centroamericana in January 2013, beating fellow World Cup qualifiers Honduras in the final. That effort earned them a place in the CONCACAF Gold Cup but in the USA Honduras gained revenge, knocking Los Ticos out at the last-eight stage.

v Honduras (neutral) 0-1 (HT 0-0)

v United States (neutral) 0-1 (HT 0-0)

v Belize (neutral) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Eiley 49

v Cuba (neutral) 3-0 (HT 0-0) Barrantes 52, 77, Arrieta 71

v Honduras (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Gonzalez 38

v El Salvador (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Wallace 72

v Guatemala (home) 1-1 (1-0 HT) Arrieta 11

v Nicaragua (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Lagos 7, Borges 86

v Belize (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Arrieta 55

Build-up (most recent first): It's been a struggle for Costa Rica since qualifying, with goals in short supply and four of their five friendlies lost.

v Japan (neutral) 1-3 (HT 1-0) Ruiz 31)

v Paraguay (home) 2-1 (HT 1-0) Campbell 43, Saborio 73

v South Korea (neutral) 0-1 (HT 0-1)

v Chile (away) 0-4 (HT 0-1)

v Australia (away) 0-1 (HT 0-0)


Team verdict: Costa Rica were considered dark horses by some judges before the World Cup draw, and while it's not going to be easy for them, I'm keen not to rule them out.

Clearly, getting out of a group which features England, Uruguay and Italy will be far from easy - it would surpass their 1990 exploits for sure - but this is a side with quality who are hard to beat.

Captain Bryan Ruiz has made all the right noises, describing England and Italy as "two great European sides", and you get the feeling his side will relish their underdog status. They also start with a game against a potentially weakened Uruguay team and we can expect a counter-attacking display which seeks to exploit their pace on the break.

As well as Ruiz, UK fans may also be familiar with Joel Campbell. The Arsenal player has been on loan with Olympiacos and looks to have improved for it, with some suggesting that he'll be part of Arsene Wenger's plans for next season.

Ultimately, the likelihood is that Costa Rica will finish either third or fourth in this group, but my expectation is that they will exploit any slip-ups from three opponents around whom there are concerns of sorts. They certainly shouldn't be embarrassed.