They started off as minnows in a shark tank. They were prognosticated to be (by me as well) the whipping boys for their Group D-mates. Those mates were all former World Cup champions: England, Italy, and Uruguay. Costa Rica was put on the board to win the whole shebang by bookmakers at ridiculous odds ranging from 1000 to 4000-1 depending on your outlet. This put them on par with Honduras, a fellow CONCACAF member who scored all but one goal in their group while losing all three of their games.
Costa Rica was a +2500 (1) pick to win their group. They did that with relative ease by shocking Uruguay 3-1 on Group D's first matchday and stunning the 2006 winners Italy 1-0 before a 0-0 snorefest against the Three Lions. A small nation with a population less than that of the state of Minnesota whose most recognizable player (Bryan Ruiz) flamed out of the fabled Barclays Premier League had taken three of the most prized scalps in world football.
Now just making it out of the group doesn't seem like a big deal but view it as making the playoffs in a sport. Costa Rica was viewed as a +2500 shot to make their "playoffs." Let me put that into perspective for you real quick. In the NFL, the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars have been currently pegged as 250 to 1 (2) odds to win the SUPER BOWL nevermind just make the postseason. The Philadelphia 76ers, who lost 26 straight games in a tank session for the ages last season are going off currently at the same 250 to 1 rate to hoist the NBA's Larry O'Brien Trophy. Costa Rica, in the eyes of professional bookies, were 10X less likely to win Group D than two of the worst teams in American professional sports to win their respective championships.
Though watching them against Greece was one of the more brutal things I've made my eyes endure, the Costa Ricans continued onward to the quarterfinals with a date with the Dutch. You could tell they were still feeling the effects of 120 minutes plus a pulse raising penalty shootout with the Greeks throughout the Netherlands match. Somehow, they were able to endure Oranje wave after Oranje wave of Dutch pressure and force extra time and another penalty shootout. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas stood on his head. Christian Bolaños dazzled with his dribbling displays. Though they were all on yellow cards by the final whistle, the Costa Rican backline through themselves at every advancement.
The fates weren't in Costa Rica's favor at the end of the day but they proved that sometimes a little pebble can make a big ripple. They were a joy to watch and kept the CONCACAF Thunder alive for just a bit longer after the United States fell by the wayside. They may not be our particular red, white, and blue but they should be proud of what they did for both their country and for the confederation that we Americans call home. Fly your flag high Los Ticos.
1- via lasvegassun.com
2- via vegasinsider.com
Trevor Utley has watched every game of the World Cup and has enjoyed the majority of Costa Rica's run. Greece is to blame for that little bad part.
Image Credit: Costa Rican flag (wikipedia.org)