New Zealand and Costa Rica play-off for final Qatar 2022 finals place

June 14 – After Asia  made history on Monday by securing a record sixth berth at the World Cup,  New Zealand attempt tonight to become the sole country from the tiny Oceania confederation to make the finals in Qatar.

Following Australia’s intercontinental playoff win over Peru on Monday, New Zealand take on Costa Rica in the final qualifying showdown that will complete the 32-team line-up.

The match at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Doha pits the fourth-placed finishers in the CONCACAF qualifying group against the top team in the Oceania confederation, with the winners to play in Group E at the finals in Qatar along with Germany, Japan and Spain.

Costa Rica, looking to qualify for a third successive World Cup, reached the quarter-finals in Brazil eight years ago and will start as firm favourites. They are ranked 31st in the world while New Zealand sit at 101.

Not only that. Since the last World Cup, Costa Rica have played 30 competitive games compared with five for New Zealand – all have been against low-ranked Pacific island nations.

New Zealand last competed at the 1982 and 2010 World Cups and lost out in playoffs for the two last tournaments. “Costa Rica have played a lot together and have a lot of caps,” said New Zealand coach Danny Hay. “We don’t really get enough opportunity to test ourselves against top quality opposition.”

But Costa Rica defender Francisco Calvo warned his side will need to be wary of complacency.

“We have to be focused for the 90 minutes, because they shoot from wherever they can,” he told reporters in Doha. “A good team builds on defensive strength, and usually the champion teams are the ones that concede the fewest goals. If we keep a clean sheet, I’m convinced that we’ll score a goal and qualify.”

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1656366633labto1656366633ofdlr1656366633owedi1656366633sni@n1656366633osloh1656366633cin.l1656366633uap1656366633