Costa Rica qualifies for Qatar and will be Spain's first rival in the World Cup
Costa Rican players celebrate Joel Campbell's goal against New Zealand on Tuesday in Doha.
Costa Rican players celebrate Joel Campbell’s goal against New Zealand on Tuesday in Doha.KARIM JAAFAR (AFP via Getty Images)

Spain will debut in Qatar against Costa Rica, which won the last place at stake for the championship after a hard-fought play-off against New Zealand in which they scored from the start and then suffered due to the strength of their rival, vigorous in the air and the handling of second moves. He had some luck at key moments in the Costa Rican team, also protected by video arbitration, which intervened to cancel a goal against the all whites as the game progressed to halftime. It was the song of the New Zealand swan, who after the break lost the thread that was leading him towards Keylor Navas’ goal.

In reality, what happened was that the Colombian coach Luis Fernando Suárez maneuvered with excellence to solve a serious problem that plagued his team. A goal in the first attack seemed to herald a placid game for his team. It was made by Bennette, a boy about to turn 18, a surprise in the lineup and also for the New Zealand defense, unable to detect it in an action in which he took a cross back that finished off the net Joel Campbell, that Boisterous striker who went through Villarreal and Betis in two stages. Barely two minutes into the game.

The blow put New Zealand in the game because, in addition, the team had the wisdom to exploit what it is really strong in. He found his football, more elaborate than in other World Cup processes, but with a known ending: the search for the reference of Chris Wood, the Newcastle striker, a typical striker from the islands born in the antipodes, with body and trade to win centers and lower them at the arrival of the second line. This is how New Zealand did not stop sending notices. At 11 minutes Greive finished off a header from his teammate near the post. Almost immediately there was a reply, this time for Garbett to leave another warning. Before the quarter of an hour, even Wood applied himself again, this time in the auction, so that Keylor would stretch.

Costa Rica faded because they did not have the ability to move the ball against a deployed opponent who came looking for them and demanded them in duels. The match turned physical and the Ticos looked like fry on that stage, lacking forcefulness, far from the aggressiveness of their rival. A New Zealand goal came, a shot from the inevitable Wood after a gross error by Tejeda in the clearance, but the VAR noted a previous foul in a Garbett dispute with Duarte.

It was like this, between shoves, that Costa Rica arrived alive at the recess. And there the coach had no doubts and made three changes that contained the bleeding. He gave Bryan Ruiz a chance to help manage the ball, Carlos Martínez to find outlets on the right flank and, above all, he nourished the defense with the mammoth Waston, an anti-aircraft that he needed as food. It was also closed around a defense of three central defenders and thus took the initiative from New Zealand, which went from bad to worse: with more than half an hour to play, they were left with ten men due to an imprudence by Barbarouses, a footballer who had just entering the field and treacherously caught one of Calvo’s ankles.

But neither did New Zealand give up, competitive and proud, who demanded Navas fly to the top corner to get an attempt from Lewis, filled the field with attacking players and looked for shortcuts to reach the area. But by then Costa Rica was already a wall. On November 23, they will start their sixth World Cup, the third in a row, against Spain.

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