DOHA ( Associated Press) — A win over Japan gave them a tank of oxygen and kept Costa Rica’s World Cup hopes alive after conceding seven goals in their opener against Spain.
Now, the Central American team is measured against Germany on Thursday, which also reserves its chances of advancing to the second round. To qualify, the Ticos will need a draw at the Al Bayt de Jor Stadium as well as a Spain win over Japan in their second encounter.
The Germans, who have just lost 2-1 to Japan and drawn 1-1 against the Spaniards, are in dire need of a win to keep running in Qatar. Also Spain defeated Japan.
The question that immediately arises: how will the team led by Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez come to stop the four-time world champion?
Following the 7-0 defeat in the premiership, Suarez is expected to take all precautions against another European powerhouse. He came out with a careful and defensive plan that gave him results against Japan and in the previous qualifiers with a 5–4–1, with three centre-backs and two full-backs.
They resorted to a defensive line of four against Spain, and in the end, it fizzled out in all areas.
The way the Ticos will approach the game becomes all the more relevant when they face an opponent in a desperate situation.
“We are very humbled,” commented German midfielder Thomas Müller, pointing to the team’s position in the table. “Not much reason to be enthusiastic.”
Müller indicated that rescuing the tie in agony against Spain boosted the team’s morale and the prospect of further progress encouraged them to “show the world of football our true quality”.
Germany found themselves in a similar position at the last World Cup in Russia. The team, then led by Joachim Löw, lost 1–0 to Mexico in their first match, and then beat Sweden 2–1. Defeating South Korea afterwards would have secured passage for the defending champions, but they lost 2–0 to go out.
“Now you have to do things differently,” Muller said. “When the football world sees Germany against Costa Rica, we are seen as favourites. We have to win it. Of course we have the honour.”
The only other time the two teams faced each other in the World Cup was in the first round in Germany 2006, with the hosts winning 4–2.
Costa Rica’s main problem lies right back, with Francisco Calvo absent due to an accumulation of yellow cards. His place will be taken by Juan Pablo Vargas.
With three points, the same as Japan, and behind leader Spain (4), Costa Rica seeks to reach the first round for the third time in six World Cup tours and after being knocked out in the first exchange and without winning a single game at Russia 2018. He reached the round of 16 on his debut in Italy 1990 and reached the quarter-finals in Brazil 2014, quite an achievement for the Central Americans.
The whistle at the Al Bayt Stadium will be officiated by French Stéphanie Frappart, the first woman to officiate as the head referee in a World Cup match.