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|Match Result and Total Goals||Odds|
|Costa Rica and Over 1.5||+130
|Draw and Over 1.5||+425
|New Zealand and Over 1.5||+800
The Central Americans should have the edge over opponents who are rarely tested in competitive action.
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Costa Rica made its debut at the 1990 World Cup, becoming the eighth team from the CONCACAF region to qualify for the tournament – behind Mexico, the United States, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Canada. That was its only outing on the biggest stage in the 20th century, but do not be tricked into thinking soccer does not have a rich history in the country. Costa Rica won the inaugural edition of the Gold Cup (then called the CONCACAF Championship) in 1963 and lifted the trophy three times before the United States first got its hands on the continental prize.
Since the turn of the millennium, Costa Rica have an excellent record of reaching World Cups. They were present in both Japan and South Korea in 2002, and in Germany four years later. Los Ticos were knocked out in the group phase on both occasions, but they did not disgrace themselves. In fact, in 2002 they finished behind eventual third-place finishers Turkey on goal difference alone.
Their finest hour, though, was the 2014 tournament in Brazil. Costa Rica were the surprise package that summer. They did extraordinarily well to finish top of a group which no one gave them a chance in. It was expected to be two qualifiers from the three of England, Italy and Uruguay, but Costa Rica amassed seven points to deservedly advance in first place. They then beat Greece on penalties in the round of 16, before bowing out via the same method at the hands of the Netherlands.
The generation that made history in 2014 was past its best four years later in Russia, and Costa Rica duly fell at the first hurdle. Many of those same stalwarts, including Bryan Oviedo, Celso Borges and Bryan Ruiz, remain prominent players on the road to Qatar.
A decade and a half ago, Australia decided to move from the Oceania confederation to the Asian one in search of stronger competition. This was widely interpreted as good news for New Zealand, who had long struggled to overcome the Socceroos in World Cup qualification. The All Whites duly qualified for the 2010 edition in South Africa, but they have not been back since.
That is not because they have struggled in Oceania; far from it. New Zealand routinely come through their own continent’s process, and they did so with a customary minimum of fuss this time around too. The coronavirus pandemic necessitated a change of format and several teams withdrew, but once again no one really got close to New Zealand, who thrashed the Solomon Islands 5-0 in the final of the qualification tournament.
The problem is – and it is one with which Australia will empathize – the Oceania region is too easy for New Zealand, who tend to struggle when they get through to the inter-confederation play-off.
The All Whites are simply not challenged by the other teams in Oceania, and they rarely get the opportunity to play competitive games against stronger opposition. That is why, despite their undisputed status as the kings of their region, New Zealand are huge underdogs against the fifth-best side from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
In most countries, the Al Rayyan Stadium would be considered relatively new given it was originally opened in 2003. Not in Qatar, though. The ground has been rebuilt since the tiny Middle Eastern state was handed the hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup. It will stage seven games at the tournament later this year, including one of the United States’ Group B encounters. One of Costa Rica or New Zealand will be back to face Japan on November 27.
The smart money in this one is on the Central Americans. They can count themselves a little unfortunate not to have already secured a spot in the competition. In the third round of the CONCACAF qualification process, commonly known as the Octagonal, they finished just three points behind Canada in top spot – but found two other teams, Mexico and the United States, between them and first place. Costa Rica missed out on a top-four finish on goal difference alone.
Their main issue was scoring goals, with only 13 in their 14 qualifiers. We are not likely to be in store for a high-scoring game in Al Rayyan, but there is enough reason to believe the teams will manage at least two goals between them. Back Costa Rica and over 1.5 goals.
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|Costa Rica vs New Zealand Information|
|Teams||Costa Rica vs New Zealand|
|Location||Al Rayyan Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar|
|Time||Tuesday, 14 June 2022, 2.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||Fox Sports 2|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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