Sports Mole previews Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifying – Oceania clash between Costa Rica and New Zealand, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Los Ticos find themselves in the playoff after finishing fourth in the North American qualifying group, while their opponents took the one playoff place available to teams from Oceania after triumphing in a knockout tournament.
Costa Rica had to endure a tough start to North American Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, as they looked to have dropped out of contention with just one victory and six points from their opening seven outings.
Los Ticos were able to correct their form in eye-catching fashion after the turn of the year, though, winning six of their final seven matches to sneak into the playoff place after looking to be out of the fight.
Four straight wins to round off the campaign sealed fourth spot for Luis Fernando Suarez‘s men, as they finished with triumphs over Jamaica, Canada, El Salvador and USA to leapfrog and end four points above Panama.
They then returned to action at the beginning of June for the opening of the new CONCACAF Nations League term, and, after an opening defeat at the hands of Panama, Los Ticos were able to put their first points on the board with a 2-0 victory over Martinique thanks to goals from Joel Campbell and Francisco Calvo.
Now heading into the playoff hoping to reach their third consecutive World Cup, Suarez’s men will be desperate for a win in Qatar.
They meet a New Zealand side who continued their continental dominance by winning the OFC Qualification.
The All Whites began by cruising through the group stage with a perfect record, winning all three of their games as they netted 12 goals and only conceded once, before meeting Tahiti in the semi-finals.
Liberato Cacace hit the only goal of that game to book a meeting with Solomon Islands in the final, and Danny Hay‘s side were more dominant in that contest, progressing to Tuesday’s playoff thanks to a 5-0 thrashing with Bill Tuiloma hitting a brace alongside goals from Chris Wood, Joe Bell and Matthew Garbett.
Now on the back of a narrow defeat to Peru and a goalless stalemate with Oman in friendlies, the All Whites will also be vying to feature on the global stage after last appearing at a World Cup in South Africa 12 years ago.
Costa Rica World Cup Qualifying – North America form:
Costa Rica form (all competitions):
New Zealand World Cup Qualifying – Oceania form:
New Zealand form (all competitions):
Costa Rica should be captained by 36-year-old Bryan Ruiz, who has now turned out 137 times for the national team, scoring 28 goals in the process.
That tally of caps is only topped in their history by fellow midfielder Celso Borges, who is also expected to play a key role on Tuesday.
The attack could again be led by former Arsenal man Joel Campbell, who scored his 23rd international goal in the recent win over Martinique, while legendary goalkeeper Keylor Navas has recently joined up with the squad after missing the CONCACAF Nations League games.
New Zealand’s attack will be led by key man Chris Wood, who has scored 33 goals in 67 caps for the All Whites.
At the other end of the pitch, experienced defender Winston Reid could don the captain’s armband, although Nando Pijnaker and Tommy Smith were preferred at the heart of the defence for the final against Solomon Islands.
Bill Tuiloma is another threat going forward, having hit a brace in that game, while Elijah Just and Matthew Garbett will both be pushing to break into the starting XI.
Costa Rica possible starting lineup:
Navas; Martinez, Duarte, Calvo, Oviedo; Borges, Tejeda; Torres, Ruiz, Fuller; Campbell
New Zealand possible starting lineup:
Marinovic; Payne, Smith, Pijnaker, De Vries; Stamenic, Tuiloma, Bell; Just, Wood, Rogerson
We say: Costa Rica 2-1 New Zealand
Given the high stakes and the relatively well-matched squads, we certainly predict a tight encounter that could go either way but just lean towards the North American outfit, who really hit their stride in qualification this year.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.