Costa Rica in focus
Los Ticos were World Cup quarter-finalists four years ago.
Costa Rica are Northern Ireland’s opponents in San Jose this Sunday in the hosts’ final home friendly before the World Cup.
Here Press Association Sport runs the rule over Los Ticos.
In terms of recent history, Costa Rica reached the last eight of the 2014 World Cup – their fourth participation in that tournament – and they famously topped a group featuring England, Italy and Uruguay. In fact, Los Ticos did not lose a game in Brazil and were only knocked out by Holland in a penalty shoot-out. Costa Rica qualified for Russia by finishing runners-up to Mexico in the final group stage, and they recently beat Scotland 1-0 in March in Alex McLeish’s first game back as manager.
Oscar Ramirez was appointed three years ago after previous boss Paulo Wanchope, who played for Derby and Manchester City, resigned following a brawl in the stands of an under-23s game in Panama. Ramirez is a former Costa Rica international who secured 75 caps, and he won multiple league titles as a boss with Alajuelense prior to taking up the post with the national team.
Unlike Northern Ireland’s last opponents Panama, Costa Rica’s squad features several names more recognisable to European football fans. The most high profile, goalkeeper Keylor Navas, has joined up with the squad after winning a third successive Champions League with Real Madrid last weekend, while perennial Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell is also in Ramirez’s group. Bryan Oviedo is a team-mate of Paddy McNair’s at Sunderland, Los Ticos captain Bryan Ruiz and Aaron Hughes played together at Fulham and Celtic’s Cristian Gamboa was at West Brom with Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley.