Costa Rica denies New Zealand to clinch final World Cup place


Central American minnow Costa Rica held off a superior New Zealand side to secure the last place in the Qatar 2022 after a narrow 1-0 win in the inter-confederation World Cup playoff Tuesday.

In a winner-takes-all match between the fourth-placed side in CONCACAF qualifying and the OFC stage winners, Joel Campbell struck the decisive goal after just three minutes.

The former Arsenal forward squeezed between two New Zealand defenders and bundled a first-time finish past Oli Sail.

Rather than tee up a straightforward Costa Rica victory, though, that goal preceded a sustained backs-to-the-wall effort as the All Whites dominated.

Chris Wood thought he had netted a precious equalizer late in the first half, only for a video assistant referee (VAR) review to spot a foul earlier in the move.

And another video referral in the second period saw substitute Kosta Barbarouses’ lunge on Francisco Calvo upgraded from a yellow card to red, leaving New Zealand with a mountain to climb.

It continued to control the contest but could not score the leveler that could give Costa Rica their place in Qatar, joining Spain, Japan and Germany in a tricky Group E.

Los Ticos – going to their sixth World Cup and third in a row – begin their campaign against Spain in Doha on Nov. 23.

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