FIFA World Cup Qualifying Preview: Costa Rica v Panama
By Football News
Costa Rica approach Tuesday's FIFA World Cup qualifier against Panama on the back of a four-match unbeaten streak.
Wins over Jamaica and Honduras in qualifiers for the 2014 tournament in Brazil were sandwiched by a friendly success in Canada. And they drew 0-0 with Mexico on Tuesday in their latest competitive fixture, a result that leaves them second in the fourth and final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
With eight points from their five matches, Costa Rica are in good form, and their miserly defence has played a big role in their success. Jorge Pinto's side have kept four consecutive clean sheets, with goalkeeper Keilor Navas playing terrifically. Fulham attacker Bryan Ruiz is Costa Rica's star man, and his ability to play a variety of roles is important for his side.
He is well supported by AIK midfielder Celso Borges and Real Betis forward Joel Campbell and with the top three sides in the fourth round of qualifying automatically progressing to the World Cup, Costa Rica have a great chance of reaching next year's showpiece.
Costa Rica have qualified for the World Cup three times in their history, most recently in 2006.
Panama may lie second bottom in the group but with six points from five games, they are well within striking distance.
Their failure to convert draws into wins - three of their five matches have ended in stalemates - could potentially cost them the chance of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time ever.
Panama's last qualifier saw them defeated 2-0 by the United States, while they drew with Mexico at home earlier in June.
Lech Posnan defender Luis Henriquez has weighed in with two important goals so far in the fourth round of qualifying for Panama.
Their two away matches in this group have ended in draw and defeat, and Panama know they will be up against it in San Jose.