Doha, Qatar – Costa Rica fans heavily outnumbered their New Zealand counterparts at the Ahmad Bin Ai Stadium in Qatar on Tuesday evening.
While the players failed to put on their best show in the middle for those fans, an early Joel Campbell goal was what it took to take the team to their sixth World Cup.
The Central American nation beat the All Whites 1-0 in Doha, securing a spot in the World Cup’s Group E which includes Spain, Germany and Japan.
“It’s so good to know we will be back in Qatar later this year,” a jubilant 60-year-old Bernardo Rodrigues, who had flown in from the Costa Rican capital San Jose, told Al Jazeera after the final whistle.
“All night people back home, including our families, will be on the streets,” Rodrigues said while celebrating with several of his friends after the game.
This will be the third consecutive World Cup appearance for Costa Rica. Nicknamed the Ticos, the team took part in 1990, 2002, 2006, 2014 and 2018 tournaments.
For New Zealand, it was the third straight playoff loss – a defeat to Mexico in 2014 and to Peru four years later.
Grief for New Zealand
New Zealand fans were understandably dejected. The team made its last World Cup appearance in South Africa in 2010.
“The early goal really just got us chasing the whole time,” New Zealand fan James Foong told Al Jazeera. “The VAR decision [overturned goal] was unfortunate and I thought was a bit harsh.”
However, Foong said he was “very proud of the young team” while singling out striker Chris Wood’s performance for praise.
It was Wood putting the ball in the back of the net in the 39th minute that referee Mohammed Abdulla Hassan Mohamed overturned after consulting the pitch-side VAR monitor, deciding a foul had been committed in the build-up.