Costa Rica more than just Joel Campbell
With all the accolades piled onto Joel Campbell after Costa Rica's 3-1 upset of Uruguay, you'd think the Ticos are a team that lived and died on the feet of their young star. This is no one-man team, and the role players in the lineup will need to step up again if Costa Rica are to enjoy a shock upset of Italy. The players who faltered must bounce back as well (most notably captain Bryan Ruiz and Junior Diaz, who got burned on the free kick that led to Uruguay's penalty).
Let's highlight four underappreciated Costa Rica players who played major roles in the Ticos' opening victory:
Yeltsin Tejeda: The defensive midfielder has been playing with Campbell for years. They played on junior national teams together before stepping into starting roles with La Sele. The 22-year-old Tejeda is the lone starter on the squad who plays his professional football in his homeland, suiting up for league champions Saprissa. But that might be changing soon after Tejeda's performance against Uruguay. He was a troublesome force in the middle, and combined with Costa Rica's disciplined back line, he kept La Celeste's potent attack from ever getting settled. According to SkySports, several English clubs including Everton and Sunderland are taking a hard look at Tejeda. He'll have a harder test against the Italians while trying to corral world-beater Andrea Pirlo.
Oscar Duarte: Duarte's diving header that gave Costa Rica the lead at the 57th minute was pure effort and a beauty of a goal. Just a few minutes earlier, he had almost scored in a similar fashion off of another set piece. After the goal, the Belgian Pro League player buried his head in the grass, overcome by emotion. Duarte was not even a starter on the team until June, but he joined the back line after Roy Miller faltered in a friendly versus Japan. He looked strong on defense as well. Duarte became the first Nicaraguan-born player to score in a World Cup final. (Social media jokesters suggested Duarte's Costa Rica goal was the biggest boon in years for relations between the two frequently bickering neighbors.)
Marco Urena: He was a frequently criticized choice for Jorge Luis Pinto's 23-man roster due to the lack of playing time he had received during the past season in Russia. But once Alvaro Saborio went down, Urena outshone Randall Brenes in subsequent friendlies and became the Ticos' second option at forward behind Campbell. After subbing in for Ruiz late in the game, he sealed the match with his first touch in the 84th minute. Urena received a dazzling feed from Campbell and then sent in a hard-angle shot that vindicated Pinto's decision to trust in the forward.
Keylor Navas: OK, he's a star. And might become an even bigger one after the World Cup, with some top clubs looking to sign the Levante keeper. Still, it's worth emphasizing how crucial Navas was early on in keeping Costa Rica in the match. One shot by Diego Forlan near the end of the first half seemed destined to drop into the goal before Navas rose up and knocked the ball off target.
Matthew Levin is a journalist based in San José, Costa Rica, where he has thrived on gallo pinto and fried plantains since 2010. He is a reporter and editor at The Tico Times and has had stories published by Reuters, The Global Post and The Arizona Republic. You can follow him on Twitter @mattlevin.