Costa Rica book Qatar 2022 berth
Tuesday just wasn’t New Zealand’s day. First, the Black Caps cricket side lost what many would have thought was an unlosable Test against England at Trent Bridge and then their football team suffered heartbreak as they missed out on qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Instead it was Costa Rica which booked a berth in Qatar, winning 1-0 at Doha in spite of the All-Whites dominating the majority of the game though they were reduced to 10 men. Former Arsenal striker Joel Campbell’s early goal helped Costa Rica secure the last place for Qatar and ensured the Central American nation will be at the World Cup finals for a third successive tournament.
Campbell scored after three minutes as he squeezed between two defenders to touch home a square pass from Jewison Bennette with the New Zealand defence slow to react. But New Zealand will feel hard done by after having an equaliser chalked off by VAR for a foul in the build-up to Chris Wood putting the ball in the back of the net in the 39th minute.
A check found that Matthew Garbett had fouled Oscar Duarte in what looked a harsh decision. A VAR check also led to a 69th-minute red card for Kosta Barbarouses, leaving the Kiwis down to 10 men.
“We had a chance to score early on and then we struggled,” Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando said at the post-match news conference. “We knew what their assets were. We knew we’d struggle with their aerial balls. We had to make a change at halftime to have greater possession of the ball and a line of five in defence. That proved key.”
The playoff between the fourth-placed team in the Concacaf region and the Oceania confederation winner, at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, brought to an end the qualifying campaign for the 2022 finals in Qatar, which run from November 21-December 18.
Australia had sealed the penultimate berth on Monday with their shootout win over Peru. Costa Rica qualified for a sixth World Cup in total and will compete in Group E at the finals against Germany, Japan and Spain. Many consider this to be the “Group of Death”.
New Zealand coach Danny Hay criticised the officiating, saying he was surprised Fifa appointed a not-so-experienced referee from the United Arab Emirates to handle such a crucial clash.
“If I’m being honest. I thought some of the officiating was absolutely atrocious,” Hay said at the post-match news conference. The UAE referee did appear overawed and looked out of his depth.
(Written with inputs from Reuters)