World Cup 2014: How Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz thrived on bigger stage

 

The greatest underdog story in a World Cup full of them will face its hardest test this evening when Costa Rica challenge the Netherlands in the fourth and last quarter-final. Before the tournament, it might have looked like a mismatch and yet Costa Rica have already taken the scalps of Italy and Uruguay and could certainly disrupt the Dutch.

It would be a remarkable result but Costa Rica, in terms of balance, if not quality, have been one of the teams of the tournament so far. In Jorge Luis Pinto’s 5-4-1 system, every player knows his role and is able to execute it perfectly. Despite the big names among the remaining sides, this has been – with the exception of the continued success of Argentina – a World Cup showcasing teams who have been more than a sum of their parts, such as Mexico, Colombia and the United States, against those who have not.

This has nowhere been clearer than in Costa Rica’s twin attacking threat. Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz have been excellent so far, Campbell through the middle and Ruiz playing from the right of midfield.

Both, of course, are contracted to English clubs and while their struggles to make a deep impression on the Premier League are not as important as what they do today – this is the first World Cup quarter-final in Costa Rica’s history – it does show that players can achieve things in international football that might have eluded them in the club game.

Joel Campbell has demonstrated the skill and character that Arsenal would dearly love to put to use Joel Campbell has demonstrated the skill and character that Arsenal would dearly love to put to use (AP)
Ruiz is Costa Rica’s captain and plays on the right wing, running up and down the flank with a muscular application that was not always evident in his two and a half seasons at Craven Cottage, where he played as an intelligent and subtle but not exactly dynamic No 10. But it was Ruiz who won the free-kick for Oscar Duarte’s second goal against Uruguay in the group game, Ruiz who scored the far-post header for that crucial second win against Italy and who scuffed in from the edge of the box as Costa Rica went 1-0 up against Greece.

Campbell has been excellent, too, leading the line with the selfless effort required in a team who do not dominate every game they play. Campbell ran  Uruguay ragged in the initial game, emphatically scoring the first before making  Marcos Urena’s late third. Against Greece he ran the channels and held the ball up for 120 draining minutes as his team – down to 10 men – fought to stay in the match and take it to penalties.

Pushing Memphis Depay (pictured on the right next to Wesley Sneijder) down the left wing against Mexico was crucial to the Netherlands winning Pushing Memphis Depay (pictured on the right next to Wesley Sneijder) down the left wing against Mexico was crucial to the Netherlands winning (EPA)
It showed a character and skill that Arsenal would love to believe that Campbell has. Since they signed him, Campbell has had three loan spells, at Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiakos, but is yet to settle fully into European club football.

 

But Campbell and Ruiz, with three goals so far, are truly doing it when it counts. They both had penalties to take against Greece last  Sunday night and scored them both, taking their team to the final eight. Win or lose today, these are the performances they will be remembered for.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project