South America

World Cup Fans: Can giant-killers Costa Rica return to form?

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Costa Rica caused a real stir at the last World Cup, beating Italy and Uruguay. Their fans in Australia think they can surprise again in Russia.

'World Cup Fans' is a special SBS News series running in the lead up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. It looks at the 32 qualifying countries through the eyes of their fans in Australia.

Four years ago Costa Rica wasn’t expected to advance from its "group of death"- but saw off two former World Cup winners in Italy and Uruguay and went on to draw with England on the way to the last eight.

The tiny Central American Nation continues to punch above its weight, and the Costa Rican community in Australia is hoping it will be another exciting tournament in Russia.

Gerry Gomez and Marvin Tapia.
Former Socceroo Gerry Gomez, left, and Marvin Tapia. Both were born in Costa Rica but now call Sydney home.
John Baldock / SBS News

Former Socceroo Gerry Gomez represented his adopted country twice after leaving Costa Rica as a 16-year-old.

He was filled with pride in 2014: "Just to see them in the World Cup and [do] so well for such a little country, it was fantastic," he told SBS News. 

Costa Rica will face tough group opponents Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland in Russia, but Gomez believes they can make it.

The team’s hopes may well rest with one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Real Madrid star Keylor Navas.

Keylor Navas
Fan favourite: Keylor Navas.

But Navas isn't the only player group rivals will be worried about, says Australian-based Costa Rican fan Mario Marin.

"Of course Navas,” he said, “but also Brian Ruiz [a midfielder from Portuguese club Sporting CP], and Joel Campbell [currently on loan to Spanish club Real Betis from Arsenal], we have lots of very, very good players so no doubts about it."  

Costa Rican Fans
Costa Rican fans gearing up for the World Cup
SBS - John Baldock

Marvin Tapia runs a Central American gift shop in Sydney. He says with a population of just under five million, Costa Rica can do no wrong.

"It’s not a huge country in terms of population so it’s hard to develop players,” he said.   

“But hopefully they always do ok and I think that's the main thing”.

Mr Tapia lives by the Costa Rican slogan of “Pura Vida,” meaning “the good life”. 

"Try and be happy, and as we say in Costa Rica, 'pura vida'… pure life, live it up”.

Costa Rica kicks off its World Cup campaign against Serbia on 17 June.  

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins 15 June. SBS will broadcast the biggest games, including the opening match, semi-finals and final, live, free and in HD.

The World Game: World Cup 2018 match schedule and How to watch live.

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