For the second time in a row, Costa Rica’s soccer team qualified for the World Cup. For a small country in a small region, this is a very big deal. Only Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama qualified this year, out of all Central American countries, and while the teams still have a slim chance at taking the prize, their fans are invigorated and ready to fight. Costa Rica doesn’t do anything half-heartedly, and they won’t be going into the games unprepared. Their team is training and their fans are leading the country in pre-games cheers and excitement.
If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica within the next year, this topic will be on everyone’s mind. You’ll be asked if you’ll be watching the games, if you’ll cheer for Costa Rica, and about your predictions for the upcoming matches. If you’re a soccer buff, these conversations may come easy to you, but anyone can benefit on a quick brush-up on Costa Rica’s long tradition of fast-paced soccer.
1. Their World Cup History
The 2018 games will mark Costa Rica’s 5th World Cup, the first one being back in 1990. This is quite a bit more than the neighboring countries have achieved, earning them the commonly recognized title as the best team in Central America. Since the early 60’s, Costa Rica has been showing up other American continental countries in regional competitions, even competing in the World Cup’s knock-out phase twice, in 1990 and again in the last games in 2014.
The 2014 games in Brazil brought the Costa Rican team closer to winning than ever expected, and they expect to do even better this year. While they are still a relatively inexperienced team compared to many European clubs, they’ll definitely be a group to keep an eye on during the games.
2. How They Qualified
In the Semifinal Round of the World Cup Qualifying games in 2015 and 2016, Costa Rica finished on top of their group. In the final round, they took a 2-0 win against Trinidad & Tobago, followed by a 4-0 win against the United States. After these two heartening wins, Costa Rica suffered 3 losses. This was followed by a 0-0 tie against Panama, and a difficult 2-1 win, again against Trinidad & Tobago. Their last 2-0 win against the United States qualified them for the 2018 World Cup.
Since the 2014 games, the Costa Rican team has gotten stronger, and their skill showed in the qualifying games. They are expected to be a more formidable opponent in the 2018 games.
3. Their Fans
Costa Ricans are world class soccer fans, or fútbol fans, as locally called. In fact, the best way to make friends in Costa Rica would be to ask them if they like Deportivo Saprissa or Alajuelense, the two biggest local rivals. You’ll not only get an answer form everyone you ask, but most likely a heated debate as well.
Have no doubt, all these soccer fans will be staying updated on their team’s progress. They know the roster, the team’s strong and weak points, and they all have predictions on the outcome. You’ll want to take part in these conversations, giving yourself an opportunity to learn more about the country’s team and their culture.
4. Their Legend
This year’s team may be the best in Costa Rican history, but the country’s favorite legend is long retired. Hernan Medford, who scored a goal against Sweden in the 1990 World Cup, qualifying the team for the second round, is a household name. He helped advance the worldwide reputation and skill level of the team and brought pride to every Costa Rican family.
If you drop Medford’s name, you’ll gain some instant respect. You can talk about the forward’s long history as both a player and a coach, his birthplace of San Jose, or his nickname: The Pelican. Any mention of this famed legend will bring more conversation, and more friends.
5. The 2018 Matches
The first games of the 2018 World Cup are already posted, and Costa Rica is getting ready. If you plan an early summer vacation to Costa Rica, you’re in luck. You’ll be there just in time to see the country buzzing with excitement, and with any luck, you’ll get to join in the fun.
Costa Rica will first play on June 17th, 2018, against Serbia. On June 22nd they play again, this time against Brazil, a very difficult team to beat. Their final scheduled game will be on June 27th against Switzerland. Their performance will dictate the next schedule of games.
6. Local Tradition
In Costa Rica, everyone will be watching the games. Some of the games are during the evening, creating the perfect opportunity for house watch parties and bar nights. The other games are during the afternoon, but true fans won’t let work get in the way of their fandom. Anyone who can will take a couple hours off work and head to a local bar to watch the game. That’s where you should be.
Make sure you know what time the games start if you’re in the country, and try to get to a bar or restaurant an hour early. Most people will show up right before it starts, but it will quickly get crowded. Find a great table and enjoy a meal before the game. You can keep buying local beers and cheering on your team when the crowds arrive.