Costa Rica beat New Zealand 1-0 in the final intercontinental playoff to complete the 32 finalists who will play in this year’s World Cup finals in Qatar.
In Doha, Los Ticos took the early lead they sustained until the final whistle when Campbell scored after three minutes. The former Arsenal player, now with Monterrey in Mexico, converted a cross after great work from the teenager, Jewison Bennette, down the left flank.
New Zealand fought back and had much of the pressure in the first half. Chris Wood, the Newcastle striker, had the ball in the net in the 39th minute, only for VAR to overrule an equalizer after a foul in the buildup. The check found that Matthew Garbett had crowded Óscar Duarte.
A match that often threatened to boil over saw Luis Fernando Suárez, the Costa Rica coach, make three subs at half-time, including the introduction of the veteran captain, Bryan Ruiz, but New Zealand continued to create many more chances.
But their hopes were seriously damaged when Kosta Barbarouses, the second-half sub brought on by New Zealand manager Danny Hay, lasted barely eight minutes before being dismissed for a studs-up foul on Francisco Calvo. A VAR check saw his yellow card converted to red. With Barbarouses appeared to go the All Whites’ hopes of playing at a third successive World Cup finals.
Instead, it will be Costa Rica’s fans, who made much of the noise, who will be returning to Qatar in November. Their team was able to compete in its third successive finals, having reached the quarter-finals in 2014 and then gone out at the group stage in 2018. Keylor Navas, the Costa Rican goalkeeper made a fine save from Clayton Lewis’s long-range effort, and then a low shot from Wood in an increasingly tense last ten minutes where New Zealand were camped in the opposition half.
Eventually, Costa Rica were able to celebrate victory and will take their place in Group E at the finals, drawn with Spain, Germany and Japan. The playoff between the fourth-placed team in the Concacaf region and the Oceania confederation winner, at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, brought the qualifying campaign to its end.