Costa Rica is known for its top-notch coffee, amazing climate, raw natural beauty, incredible wildlife, and the Pura Vida lifestyle. However, the real national treasure of this peaceful Central American country is the people.Ticos are friendly and generous by nature, always willing to help and share whatever they have. The locals love spending time with family and friends, particularly when a soccer game is on the television.
The Costa Rican national team, la selección de fútbolcostarricense, is the pride and joy of Costa Rica. Although La Sele has never won a World Cup, they are the most established and successful team in Central America. The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar represents CR’s sixth time playing for the golden trophy and global bragging rights.
The FIFA World Cup trophy is valued at roughly $20 million, but the winners do not keep the trophy forever. Similarly to the Stanley Cup scenario in the NHL, the FIFA World Cup trophy is only held by the winning team during its reign of supremacy. In the case of the World Cup, that equates to approximately four years. After that period of time, the former champions are given a gold-plated bronze replica to keep.
However, FIFA has increased the total prize money paid out by 29% this time around. All 32 qualified teams receive a “participation fee” of $2.5 million. The 16 teams that get bounced during The Group Stage get $8 million, the eight squads eliminated in The Round of 16 are paid $12 million, and the four teams that exit in Quarterfinals action earn $16 million each.
Fourth and third place receive $22 million and $26 million, respectively. The runner-up earns $32 million, while the champions walk away with a whopping $45 million.
For a country which ranked 76th in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, that’s a mountain of money. Costa Rica was named “The Rich Coast” by Christopher Columbus, but this moniker has proven to be accurate mainly through the existence of intangible riches within the country. The vast majority of Ticos operate on relatively small budgets.
World Cup inclusion guarantees increased commercial activity for restaurants and bars, an injection of money into team jersey sales, and a general boost in overall jubilation. The mood, particularly on game day, is akin to a tropical Christmas morning. All smiles and excitement, cold beer and ceviche, honking horns and flags waving, pure joy.
The closest La Sele came to achieving ultimate glory was in the Brazil 2014 Quarterfinals vs the Netherlands. The Ticos and Dutchmen were tied 0-0 headed into extra time, and the Costa Rican landscape vibrated with chants of VA-MOS TI-COS!!! La Sele had played brilliantly during the entire tournament and was emerging as a “caballo oscuro” (dark horse) to win it all. The Dutch had other ideas, and used dirty tactics.
Capitalizing on the Ticos generally nonaggressive nature, the Netherlands’ players began using hardcore mental warfare. The Dutchmen pushed and prodded La Sele at every opportunity, yelling in their faces while working to collectively unsettle them.
The Netherlands also subbed in 6-foot-4 goaltender Tim Krul when it came down to penalty kicks. The Dutch giant frothed at the mouth and verbally assaulted the Costa Rican players, while his huge frame menaced the perimeter of the goal. Krul even pushed a Costa Rican player. The plan worked, and Costa Rica lost 0-0 (4-3 on penalty kicks).
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is when Costa Rica goalie Keylor Navas cemented himself as one of the elite netminders in soccer. Navas, 35, hopes to help lead the 2022 La Sele squad to the promised land in what may be his final time playing for the World Cup.
Both Navas and forward Joel Campbell shined brightly in Costa Rica’s 1-0 victory over New Zealand in the intercontinental playoff on June 14th. On the day before his 18th birthday, La Sele left-winger Jewison Bennette also made a crucial contribution.
Bennette delivered a low cross pass to Campbell out in front, which the San José native buried barely two minutes into the game. Costa Rica led 1-0, and never looked back. This win locked La Sele into the 32nd and final spot in Qatar.
In Costa Rica, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Tico style. Pura Vida.