Costa Rica going to World Cup, beats New Zealand in playoff

Sports

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Costa Rica completed a 32-nation World Cup lineup by beating New Zealand 1-0 in an intercontinental playoff on Tuesday.

Leaning heavily on its core of veterans, Costa Rica defended a third-minute goal from Joel Campbell and relied on saves from goalkeeper and captain Keylor Navas.

New Zealand rallied from the early setback to dominate possession and create more and better scoring chances, even after going down to 10 men for the last quarter of the match.

Two key decisions after video review went against New Zealand, canceling out a possible equalizing goal by Chris Wood in the 39th and ensuring a red card in the 69th for a foul by Kosta Barbarouses. The midfielder was on the field as a substitute for just nine minutes.

Navas saved his best for the tense late stages, rising to push away a curling left-foot shot by Clayton Lewis and getting down to block Wood’s low drive.

It lifted Costa Rica, the 2014 quarterfinalist, to qualify for its third straight World Cup and sent New Zealand to a third straight failure in the final qualifying test. The latest Kiwis loss in intercontinental playoffs followed exits against Mexico for the 2014 tournament and Peru four years later.

Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suárez scored his own World Cup hat trick. He previously took Ecuador to the 2006 tournament and led Honduras there in 2014.

A tough World Cup assignment awaits as Suárez and his team will face two of the past three champions in Group E. Spain is the first opponent on Nov. 23, then Japan and Germany.

Costa Rica scored from its first attack when Campbell, the former Arsenal forward, muscled between two defenders near the penalty spot to meet a low cross from teenager Jewison Bennette. Campbell directed a left-foot shot low into the far corner of the net.

A World Cup place was the perfect gift for Bennette, who turns 18 on Wednesday.

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