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Costa Rica World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections

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Pictured: Keylor Navas.

  • Costa Rica returns to the World Cup for another occasion.
  • They've had some success at the event in the past, but will they be able to overcome the odds here.
  • Read on for a full preview of the team.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network’s staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating. 

Read on for a full breakdown of Costa Rica ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.

Costa Rica World Cup Preview

Costa Rica are the luckiest team to be in the World Cup. They rode the coattails of goalkeeper Keylor Navas all the way through CONCACAF qualifying and eventually beat New Zealand in a playoff to reach the World Cup. 

If you want the definition of an xG overperformer, it’s Costa Rica. They went all the way through World Cup qualifying with a +6 goal differential but a -4.43 xG differential. The reason for that is because their defense ran insanely hot on the back of Navas playing out of his mind in net. Costa Rica allowed only eight goals over the entirety of World Cup Qualifying, but they allowed their opponents to create 20.03 xG. In six matches against their three toughest opponents (USA, Mexico and Canada), Costa Rica created just 5.17 xG but allowed 7.2 xG. 

Chances To… Action Projections bet365 Odds
Win Group Stage 0.93% +5000
Advance To Knockout Round 7.25% +800
Win World Cup 0.01% +75000
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

In terms of their roster construction, this is the oldest roster in the World Cup. Almost half of their roster is over the age of 30, and over 70% of their roster is playing in the Costa Rican Primera Division. 

When you hear the term “park the bus,” that is exactly what Costa Rica does. So going up against Spain, Germany and Japan, three possession-dominant sides that are going to hold over 70% possession and likely get off 20+ shots per match, is not a recipe for success.

Key Player: Keylor Navas

Navas has been one of the best goalkeepers in the world for a long time, but he is struggling to find playing time with PSG these days, as the 35-year-old is the second-choice keeper behind Gianluigi Donnarumma. 

When Navas was in net for Real Madrid and PSG over the years, he consistently performed above expectations. Since the 2017-18 season, Navas has a +13.9 post-shot xG +/-, meaning he’s saved about 14 more shots than a normal keeper should save. 

He’s not really a “sweeper keeper” or someone who is going to come off his line very often unless completely necessary. Over his career Navas is only averaging 0.94 defensive actions outside the penalty area and is stopping only 2.2% of crosses coming into the penalty area, per fbref.com. 

If Costa Rica are going to sit in a 4-4-2 and park the bus, he’s not going to need to come off his line very often, but he’s going to have to put together three masterful showings to keep his team alive in every match. 

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Tactical Analysis

Costa Rica are very simplistic in their tactics. It’s 4-4-2, park the bus and send Joel Campbell out on the counter hoping he will create something. They rode this strategy all the way through CONCACAF qualifying, playing an incredibly low defensive line with 10 men consistently behind the ball.

They are not going to come out and press you. Costa Rica will let you have the ball and pass, pass it around – but they put a premium on clogging up the middle of the pitch, forcing their opponents to move the ball wide and send in crosses, where they believe they have an advantage winning aerial duels. Their qualification playoff match against New Zealand was a perfect example. Costa Rica allowed New Zealand to control over 63% possession and had a PPDA of 21.4. 

It might have worked against New Zealand, but playing this style against Germany, Spain and Japan is a recipe for disaster.

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Costa Rica World Cup Schedule

Opponent Day/Time
Spain 11 a.m. ET, No. 23
Japan 5 a.m. ET, Nov. 27
Germany 2 p.m. ET, Dec. 1

Most Recent World Cup Result

Fourth Place, Group Stage (2018)

Costa Rica have made the World Cup Finals stage on two consecutive occasions, but they weren’t able to get out of the group stage in 2018. Losses to Serbia and Brazil were followed up by a draw with Switzerland.


Costa Rica World Cup Roster

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