Joel Campbell’s early goal propelled Costa Rica into the World Cup for a third straight season as they beat 10-men New Zealand 1-0 in their intercontinental playoffs on Tuesday and secured the last place at the finals in Qatar.
The former Arsenal striker scored for Costa Rica after three minutes as he squeezed between two defenders to meet a square Jewison Bennette pass while the New Zealand defense were slow to react.
– Soccer on ESPN+: FC Daily | Soccer America
– You don’t have ESPN? Get instant access
But New Zealand will be feeling tough after VAR equalized for a foul in front of Chris Wood, who put the ball into the net in the 39th minute.
A review found Matthew Garbett fouled Oscar Duarte in what appeared to be a tough decision.
A VAR check also resulted in a red card for Kosta Barbarouses in the 69th minute, reducing the Kiwis to 10 men.
“We had a chance to score early and then we struggled,” said Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez at the post-game press conference.
“We knew what their strengths were. We knew we were going to struggle with their air balls. We had to switch at half-time to have more possession and a back five in defence. That was key.”
The playoff between the fourth-placed team from the CONCACAF region and the winners from the Oceanic Confederation at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium ended the qualifying campaign for the 2022 finals in Qatar, which will take place from November 21 to December 12. 18
Costa Rica qualified for their sixth World Cup overall and will face Germany, Japan and Spain in Group E of the finals.
Campbell’s goal had around 6,000 traveling fans out of a crowd of 10,803 but failed to produce the dominant performance expected from the Central American team.
Instead, New Zealand were the more enterprising team, with center forward Wood, who was under constant watch from a cautious Costa Rican defence, the target of their attacks.
Alex Greive and Garbett also had chances in the first half but their shot went wide.
Three half-time substitutions by Costa Rica roused them from their slumber, but it was still New Zealand who showed more attacking spirit in the second half, but without giving anything in return.
Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas made a good stop from Clayton Lewis in the 76th minute as New Zealand were looking for an equaliser, while Costa Rica sat back and absorbed the pressure until the final whistle caused a joyful celebration.
“I thought we were a much better team,” said New Zealand coach Danny Hay, disappointed. “One team dominated, there was only one team trying to bring quality football together.”