The final hurdle New Zealand must overcome to book their place at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ will be Costa Rica, following the conclusion of the third round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.
New Zealand advanced to the next stage of the FIFA World Cup qualifying process after defeating Solomon Islands 5-0 in the final of the Oceania Qualifiers in Doha, Qatar, last night (local time).
The next phase of qualifying is an intercontinental play-off, in which the winners of the OFC qualifiers will take on the team who finished fourth in the eight-team third round round-robin, known as ‘The Oct’, in the CONCACAF region.
Costa Rica’s 2-0 win against the United States today was not enough to leapfrog their opponents or Mexico, who defeated El Salvador 2-0, into the automatic qualification places, meaning Los Ticos fill the play-off position, behind group winners Canada, the US and Mexico.
After a slow start, in which they managed just one win their opening seven fixtures, Costa Rica have recovered form in recent months. Coached by Luis Fernando Suarez, they were the first team to beat Canada, managed by former New Zealand Women boss John Herdman, in the third-round stage and also secured an impressive 0-0 draw in Mexico as well as wins against El Salvador, Panama, Honduras, and Jamaica, to finish above them, in their qualifying campaign.
The current 42nd ranked side in the FIFA/Coca Cola World Rankings have several players in their current squad who helped them to a quarter-final place at the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014™, including captain Bryan Ruiz, star goalkeeper Keylor Navas and the nation’s record cap holder Celso Borges.
“They have got some world-class players as people will be aware and they have really started to hit their straps toward the back-end of their qualifying campaign,” New Zealand head coach Danny Hay told the press after the All Whites win over Solomon Islands.
“It is going to be extremely tough but the reality is we think we are in a good space. For us it will be about preparing for us. We will obviously do some really in-depth analysis on them closer to the time.”
New Zealand have met Costa Rica once before, losing 4-0 in an international friendly back in March 2007. Álvaro Saborío scored a brace at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San José, with the other goals coming courtesy of Alonso Solís and Bryan Ruiz.
New Zealand boss Hay was All Whites captain on that day and he will be hoping for a different result 15 years on.
The play-off will take place in Qatar on June 13 or 14 and will be a one-off fixture with the winning team joining 31 other nations at the FIFA World Cup, which begins on November 21, 2022 in Qatar.