By Jonathan Johnson
The 2022 FIFA World Cup groups are now complete after Costa Rica beat New Zealand 1-0 to clinch the final place at the event in Qatar later this year. Joel Campbell’s third minute strike was enough for the Concacaf nation to stamp their ticket although they did need the help of VAR in ruling out a Chris Wood equalizer before the Kiwis finished with 10 men in Al Rayyan.
Campbell needed just three minutes to break the deadlock at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium from a Jewison Bennette assist but from that moment it was New Zealand who looked more likely to score. Wood was a constant menace and thought he had leveled only for VAR to spot a foul in the build-up and Alex Greive and Matthew Garbett also wasted good chances to score.
Bryan Ruiz was sent on by Costa Rican coach Luis Suarez at half time, but it was Kosta Barbarouses’ sending off which ultimately made the difference when he took out Francisco Calvo. Keylor Navas was in fine form for Los Ticos between the sticks and made a save from Clayton Lewis late on as they held on for victory.
That a third consecutive World Cup outing for Costa Rica who featured in the 2002 and 2006 group stages before their shock 2014 quarterfinal and another group stage in 2018. Despite Navas, Ruiz, Celso Borges, Kendall Waston, Oscar Duarte, and Bryan Oviedo getting older, this is an experienced group of players who could make life tough for Spain, Germany and Japan.
Group E will get underway with the Costa Ricans facing La Roja in Doha before Samurai Blue back in Al Rayyan and then Die Mannschaft in Al Khor. Australia booked their place the day before when they beat Peru on penalties to join France, Denmark, and Tunisia in Group D.
The first-ever World Cup in the Middle East gets underway on Nov. 21 and runs until the Dec. 18 final.
Group A: Qatar (hosts), Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands.
Group B: England, Iran, United States and Wales.
Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland.
Group D: France, Australia, Denmark and Tunisia.
Group E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany and Japan.
Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco and Croatia.
Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon.
Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea.