Over three years ago we published this article on Costa Rica’s visit to Wales. It was clear then that was a talented team and that Joel Campbell could play. Bryan Ruiz predicted then that Campbell would get his chance at Arsenal. Campbell is trending on twitter after his magnificent display against Uruguay tonight.
By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 29th 2011)
Almost 24,000 Welsh football supporters put club loyalties aside tonight to celebrate the life of Welsh and football icon, Gary Speed in the presence of Speed’s family and some of the greats of Welsh football, including Neville Southall, Ian Rush, Mark Hughes and Ryan Giggs. Young manager, Chris Coleman had a difficult task to do justice to Speed’s legacy. The emotion was hard to contain and Costa Rica came to play – Speed would have demanded nothing less.
“I think Costa Rica played a good match,” said Fulham’s Costa Rican international Bryan Ruiz. Also Wales, they tried; I think they combined well. They kept the ball for some parts of the match. I think it was a quite equal game, but we scored, but it was a very important match for future.” He conveyed the importance of the occasion to his team-mates.
“I am in England and everyone was talking about the trainer [Speed],” Ruiz said. “We understand that it was an emotional match for everyone here and also that the players of Wales wanted to win, so I think it matters. They [his team-mates asked me about the trainer because not everyone in Costa Rica knew about him, so I tell them about what was the situation of the match and who he was, so they knew.”
But Costa Rica had other priorities. ”We start our qualification for the World Cup in a couple of months, so it was very important for us,” Ruiz said. “Also it’s the last FIFA date before June, so we needed this match and I think it was against a very good national team, so we got very focused. We knew that it was an emotional match for Wales, but also we had our things to think, so we just came here to do the match, but we were thinking our things, you know.”
An Exceptional Young Talent
After an immaculately observed minute’s applause to commemorate Speed, Lorient’s Joel Campbell, on loan from Arsenal, broke Welsh hearts – temporarily – by beating Crystal Palace’s Lewis Price to the keeper’s left from 10 yards. One of the stars of Costa Rica’s Under-20 World Cup campaign in Colombia last summer, Campbell’s run was found by an exquisite pass from Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz that dissected Wales’ central defensive pairing of Swansea’s Ashley Williams and Cardiff City’s Darcy Blake. Campbell did the rest, showing composure that belied his youth.
“I’m not surprised because he is a young player, so I think he needs time,” Ruiz said. “I think he also did quite good today, so maybe they [Arsenal] can see that, so I think he will get his chance, but he needs time also. I think he will have his chance in the next pre-season, so it’s up to him. I think [the] national [team] they are very careful to take him in the team and to teach him, because he is young, so he doesn’t have to go too fast. , he is a very good player, you could see. I think he has qualities and Arsenal knows that. He will get his chance.”
Sunderland’s David Vaughan had the first effort on goal a couple of minutes before Campbell showed how it should be done, but did not test goal-keeper Keylor Navas, who plays for the surprise package of Spain’s Primera Liga, Levante. Craig Bellamy’s effort a few minutes later also cleared Navas’ bar.
Campbell, however, continued to pose questions, for the Welsh defence, shaking off Blake on the left flank to let fly from 20 yards out after 19 minutes, but the angle was tight and Price saved well, even though he would have been disappointed to have conceded from there.
Arsenal fans may well wonder why, on this showing, Campbell is gracing French football rather than the Emirates Stadium. They need wonder no longer (see Teenage Sensation Exposes Absurdity of Rules, which is also published by us today).
Wenger must now be cursing the absurd work permit rules that deny him access to Campbell’s talent when he most needs it. The teenager is already a fixture in Costa Rica’s set-up under Pinto, but has yet to satisfy the stringent requirements that he must play 75% of matches for his country. Nevertheless, the youngster highlighted that promise tonight with a well-taken and decisive goal.
The Welsh Respond
The disappointment of conceding early and the confidence boost that gave to Jorge Pinto’s team, knocked Wales out of their stride for almost half an hour. Wales, possibly labouring under the emotion of the night awoke and threatened on right flank through Reading’s Hal Robson-Kanu. His cross caused Navas to flap with Swansea City’s Joe Allen pressuring him. Chris Coleman will have been encouraged to see Navas flap at the ensuing free-kick and two corners that followed the most concerted Welsh pressure, but his team failed to exploit the ‘weakness’ further.
Wales deserved an equaliser when Norwich City’s Steve Morrison met Vaughan’s corner firmly, only to see his header beat Navas, but not the crossbar, as half-time approached. Stung into a response Costa Rica went to the other end, but Ruiz’ 22 yard shot did not call Price into action.
Randall Azofeifa had the first effort of the second half, but Price was not called into action. Shortly afterwards Bellamy’s dipping 25 yard free-kick just cleared the bar and after a goalmouth scramble Morrison lashed his shot just over Navas’ bar.
Shortly after Coleman replaced Allen with West Ham United’s Jack Collinson, Robson-Kanu forced Navas to tip his 22 yard effort over – a decent save. After a spate of substitutions, which disrupted the flow of the match, Andrew Crofts blocked Cunningham near the halfway line on the right wing needlessly. Referee Howard Webb resisted the temptation to brandish a card – there were no complaints.
Gainare Tottori’s Kenny Cunningham’s 25-yard shot clipped the upright with Price beaten and Pinto replaced the goal-scorer Campbell with Kalmar FF’s Jonathan McDonald for the last ten minutes. The result was not the important thing and Wales had the opportunity to observe a different style of football that will stand them in good stead as they endeavour to cement Speed’s legacy with a place at football’s top table two years from now.