by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 21st 2015)



Carlos Velasco Carballo rapidly established himself as Spainʼs top referee since deciding to concentrate on officiating in 2010. He had built up a reputation as a firm but fair referee – one who managed to combine a disciplinarian streak with letting the game flow. This was quite an achievement. It was not unusual for there to be several yellow cards and the odd red card too.

Armed with the appropriate FIFA badge, Velasco Carballo refereed his first international in 2008. His first season refereeing past qualifiers for the Championʼs League coincided with a meteoric rise. In that season he was awarded the 2011 Europa League Final in Dublin. Radamel Falcao García Zárate – then playing for Porto – set a Europa League (UEFA Cup) record for goals scored in the competition.

It was a niggly match settled by a solitary goal scored by Falcao and liberally peppered by fouls and cards. 42 fouls resulted in eight yellow cards. This was a typical Velasco Carballo performance. The following season, he continued where he left off. Velasco Carballo refereed 19 Primera División matches and brandished 16 red cards.

He was Spainʼs representative at Euro2012 ahead of the more experienced Alberto Undiano Mallenco. He refereed the opening match in Poland against Greece. Sokratis Papasthapoulos was controversially sent off, having received two unfortunate yellow cards.



Velasco Carballoʼs stock plummeted at the World Cup in the wretched quarter-final between Brasil and Colombia. Some say the occasion got to him, but that does not explain his performance. It wasnʼt just the record tally of fouls – 54 – some of which were appalling. Flagrant encroachment at a free-kick was not only unpunished, but rewarded. It was a performance that defied explanation.

He permitted over 40 offences before brandishing a yellow card in that match in Fortaleza and the first was for a comparatively trivial offence compared to what had gone before and later. FIFA insists that there was no directive to referees to show leniency when it came to showing cards and refused to criticise Velasco Carballoʼs performance in Fortaleza.


Diego Maradona and Falcao were scathing in their criticism, but they werenʼt to know that Velasco Carballo had officiated against type. It remained to be seen how the Spaniard would perform post Fortaleza. If FIFA was correct and there was no directive then Velasco Carballo must have chosen to abandon his previous style and referee in an alien fashion, which he would no doubt stick to.

The Renaissance

His reputation had taken a mauling during the World Cup. But the signs were there after the World Cup that Velasco Carballo had refereed that match in an alien manner. Last December he refereed Eibar versus Valencia. There were 21 fouls, but 10 yellow cards, four in the last ten minutes. His first match of the new year took place on January 3rd between Sevilla and Celta de Vigo. There were 45 fouls. Velasco Carballo showed nine yellow cards and one red.

It was nowhere near as dirty a match as that infamous quarter-final. A league match between Real Sociedad and Villarreal last month had 24 fouls. He brandished ten yellow cards and a red card too. Just over a month ago he refereed a local encounter Levante versus Elche. Velasco Carballo showed a red card to David Navarro after just 6 minutes. He also showed six yellow cards. There were 26 fouls in the match. Clearly, this was not a referee who would not use his cards if the offence warranted it in Spain. What about in European competition?

He officiated the match between Schalke04 and Maribor in September. There were 24 fouls and five yellow cards were shown, all in the second half. He refereed FCK versus Bayer Leverkusen last August. Each side committed 12 fouls. He showed six yellow cards. Anderlechtʼs home defeat by Arsenal resulted in just three yellow cards with 27 fouls. Ajax beat the Cypriots APOEL comfortably at home in December. The 4-0 drubbing had 16 fouls, 8 each. Two Cypriot players were the only ones booked. It was hardly a dirty match deserving a flurry of cards.

His latest international after the World Cup was a Euro2016 qualifier between Iceland and the Netherlands. Iceland won 2-0. There were 23 fouls and only one booking – Nigel de Jong in the last ten minutes. But all of these statistics donʼt necessarily tell the whole story – not all fouls deserve cards. I have seen only two of his matches since the World Cup – Sevilla versus Celta de Vigo and last Thursdayʼs Europa League tie at White Hart Lane. His performances were true to form. Fortaleza was an aberration.

The Return


Fans of los Cafeteros present at White Hart Lane would be forgiven a double take or two at his performance on Thursday night. It was the same referee who lost control of the quarter-final between Brasil and Colombia. There was never any danger of a repeat dose tonight as long as there were no ludicrous directives. It soon became clear that there were not.

Just three minutes into the match those familiar with the style and performances of Madrid-based referee Carlos Velasco Carballo – remember him – saw a familiar sight. The real Velasco Carballo jogging over to Spursʼ right wing with intent. Gonzalo Rodríguez brought down Andros Townsend. It was a bad foul that deserved a booking and got one.

Velasco Carballo had made it clear where his line was and the match quickly settled down. There was no danger that this would degenerate into foul fare. The referee was in control. The whole match had 24 fouls and just three yellow cards. The refereeʼs authority was never in doubt and it flowed. There was no need for more cards. This is the real Carlos Velasco Carballo.

Van Gaalʼs Bluff Pays off


by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 5th 2014)

The Bluff

Despite making an excellent save to deny Kuban Krasnadorʼs Marco Ureña Porras and keep his country in the World Cup a few minutes before the end of extra time, Ajaxʼs Jasper Cillessen was replaced by ʻpenalties specialistʼ Tim Krul. It was a very brave call by Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, especially as Krul did not have a good record with penalties. He had only saved two out of twenty for Newcastle United. Ironically Swanseaʼs Michel Vorm has a better penalty saving record.

Krul emerged the hero despite his gamesmanship, which worked. Van Gaal and Krul got into the heads of the Costa Ricans. Bryan Ruiz Gonzálezʼ penalty was weak and saved by Krul. They didnʼt work on the Columbus Crewʼs Giancarlo González or FCKʼs Christian Bolaños Navarro, but Michael Umaña Corrales – one of the Costa Rican-based players in Jorge Pinto Afanadorʼs team – was psyched out by Krul.

Not even the Man of the Match performance of Levanteʼs Keylor Navas Gamboa could deny the Dutch from the spot as all four of their penalty-takers scored.

Credit Where itʼs Due

Van Gaal was hailed a tactical genius, but credit where itʼs due, this was not the first time this tactic had been tried and succeeded. In 2004 FC Enyimbeʼs coach Felix Okey Emordi did it twice to the bemusement of his number one Vincent Enyeama in the African Championʼs League and it worked both times. Tunisiaʼs Esperance were astonished when Dele Aiyenugba replaced Enyeama for the penalty shoot-out.

Aiyenugba emerged the hero as FC Enyimba advanced to the final. Enyeama was back between the sticks for the final, but with penalties looming Emordi decided that a repeat dose was necessary. Aiyenugba was the hero again as FC Enyimba retained the Championʼs League on penalties. Tunisiaʼs Étoile du Sahel fell at the final hurdle to the same tactic. To try the tactic twice in a semi-final and repeat it in a final takes incredible courage and is worthy of great credit.

The Fairytale Ends

The USA reached the semi-final of the inaugural World Cup in 1930, but that was years before CONCACAF was founded. Costa Ricaʼs previous best was the last 16 in 1990. They bettered that and gave the Netherlands a run for their money. The match really came alive in extra time. Two minutes into the first period Robbenʼs corner was headed goal-ward by Ron Vlaar. Navas saved. He was hurt shortly afterwards, but recovered to continue.

A minute after Navas resumed Ureña received a throw-in from substitute Dave Myrie and cut into the box. He went down under Aston Villaʼs Vlaarʼs challenge wanting a penalty which Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov declined to award. It was third penalty appeal that the surprise package of this World Cup could and perhaps should have had – two in normal time.

After 23 minutes of extra time Galatasaray midfielder Wesley Sneijder slotted it through for PSV Eindhovenʼs Memphis Depay, who was just offside. He shot anyway and Navas made his customary excellent save. With less than five minutes left Myrie intercepted Daley Blindʼs punt forward, kicking on for Ruiz to head into Ureñaʼs path.

The man who replaced Arsenalʼs on loan Joel Campbell Samuels after 65 minutes dribbled into the area, but his shot was well saved by Cillessen to keep the Dutch in the contest. With two minutes of extra time left Sneijder finally found a way past the excellent Navas, but his 25 yard shot hit the post. A lazy shot by Schalke04ʼs Klaas-Jan Huntelaar went out of play allowing van Gaal to bring Krul on for the perplexed Cillessen.


Navas enhanced his reputation once more and will surely earn a move to a bigger club – Levante would be crazy if they let him leave for a cent less than his buy-out clause. He was absolutely immense. It began just after 20 minutes as a move involving Bayern Münchenʼs Arjen Robben, Fenerbahçeʼs Dirk Kuyt, Depay and finally Manchester Unitedʼs Robin van Persie on the left, but Navas saved well. The rebound was helped on to Sneijder by Depay, but Sneijderʼs shot was never going to beat Navas.

Six minutes later Ruiz was shoved in the back by Sneijder. Irmatov gave a free-kick which Bolaños whipped in, but it went out of play although AIK Stockholmʼs Celso Borges Mora was manhandled by Bruno Martins-Indi. Replays confirmed that it should have been a penalty, as the Feyenoord defender was impeding Borges, as the replays confirmed. Irmatov either missed or ignored the offence.

A minute later van Persie surged forward and slotted Depay in, but Navas was equal to the task again. With under ten minutes of the first half remaining Júnior Díaz Campbell who booked for tug on Robben. Sneijder tries free-kick from 25 yards out, but well saved to right by Navas. Five minutes later PSV Eindhovenʼs Georginio Wijnaldum poked it through to Robben. The Dutch winger put van Persie through on left of area, but Navas rushed off his line quickly to claim at van Persieʼs feet.


With just under an hour played FSV Mainz05ʼs Díaz found space on the left wing and crossed for Campbell who was pushed in the back by Martins-Indi. Again it looked a penalty, but wasnʼt given. A minute later when Feyenoordʼs Stefan de Vrij committed the same offence nearer the half way line than penalty area. That was given, but the opportunity was wasted.

With just over ten minutes of normal time left Kuyt crossed from the right, but found Dynamo Kyivʼs Jeremain Lens just offside. Navas saved his header anyway. A minute later despite suggesting that Robben had dived González was booked for tugging him off. Sneijder responded with a fantastic free-kick, which hit the near post with Navas beaten – he had earned some luck. And two minutes after that Robbenʼs free-kick broke to van Persie on right of area. His turn to make room to shoot was magnificent, but once again Navas was equal to it.

In added time Díaz who had already been booked was fortunate to avoid another card for tripping Robben on the right edge of the area. It was a dreadful tackle. With added time drawing to a close the Dutch had one more great opportunity.

Blind crossed from left. It deflected off Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissaʼs Yeltsin Tejada Valverde to van Persie whose shot beat Navas, but was miss-hit onto bar by Tejada on the line. Extra time came and went and Costa Ricaʼs dream was ended on penalties. The Netherlands will face Argentina in a repeat of the controversial final of 1978 which helped to prop up the disgusting dictatorship of the late and unlamented General Jorge Videla Redondo.


Costa Rica Defy Odds

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 29th 2014)

Making History

Levanteʼs Keylor Navas Gamboa twice made three crucial saves to keep Jorge Pinto Alfanadorʼs Costa Rica in the match and one to bring them to the brink of victory. The match tied at 1-1 after extra time – with an assist from FCKʼs Christian Bolaños Navarro Fulhamʼs Bryan Ruiz González gave Costa Rica a 51st minute lead that lasted 40 minutes before Borussia Dortmundʼs Sokratis Papastathopoulos equalised in added time – penalties were required.

Both Navas and Greek keeper Orestis Karnezis were powerless to prevent the first three penalties each being scored by Celso Borges, Ruiz and Giancarlo González for Costa Rica and matched by Kostas Mitroglou, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and José Holebas. A tired Joel Campbell Samuels scored Costa Ricaʼs fourth, putting immense pressure on veteran striker Theofanis Gekas.

Navas guessed correctly for the only save of the shoot-out. That left Michael Umaña with the chance to surpass the class of 1990 and make new history. He did so to set up a quarter-final against the Netherlands.

Against Type

Both Costa Rica and Greece were forced by necessity to play against type. Greece were more attacking than usual, but still didnʼt totally abandon the habits that had served so well. Portuguese coach Fernando Santos was sent to the stands before the penalty shoot-out. It was his last match in charge of the Greeks.

Whatever caused his dismissal from pitch-side, his opposite number had greater cause for consent as despite being well positioned Australian referee Ben Williams missed a clear penalty when Vasilis Torosidos handled to prevent Bolaños having the opportunity to score while shaping to shoot – another case for using technology. That came a couple of minutes after Costa Rica had taken the lead, albeit against the run of play.

Greece had the best chance of the first half with less than ten minutes of the first half remaining. The left wing-back José Holebas delivered an enticing cross to the back post to PAOKʼs Dimitrios Salpingidis, whose shot was well saved by Navas. Ten minutes after taking the lead Óscar Duarte Gaitán received a yellow card for tripping Holebas – his second. The Costa Ricans tired quickly.

Navas saved well twice to deny Mitroglou before and after Papastathopoulosʼ equaliser. During Extra time the ten men of Costa Rica defended manfully. Lazoros Christodoulopoulos spurned the best opportunity a five against two attack by shooting straight at Navas. The unfortunate Mitroglu was denied once more by Navasʼ leg. Penalties were required and Pintoʼs men scored all five to go through to the quarter-final to play the Dutch. They will be underdogs again, but have acquired an impressive list of conquests already. Nothing will suit them better than being under-estimated again.


England Bow Out

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 24th 2014)


Roy Hodgson rang in the changes – nine of them – for the final match of a disappointing World Cup campaign. It ended 0-0 against the supposed whipping boys Costa Rica. Jorge Pinto Alfanadorʼs team ignored the script and won the group by avoiding defeat. Arsenalʼs Joel Campbell Samuels was less impressive than in the previous two matches. Meanwhile, Liverpoolʼs Daniel Sturridge was the focal pint of Englandʼs attack.

Sturridgeʼs first chance was created by Jack Wilshere, but he shot wide twice in just over .the first 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Celso Borges 25 yards out free-kick was finger-tipped onto bar for corner by Ben Foster. England felt that they should have been awarded a spot-kick by Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi after 26 minutes.

The Obdurate Barrier

Wilshereʼs cross was nodded on by Ross Barkley to Sturridge, but Óscar Duarte Gaitán got his leg in front off Sturridgeʼs as the Liverpool striker prepared to shoot. Sturridge went over Duarteʼs leg, but no penalty was given. After 34 minutes Sturridge had another chance. Barkleyʼs corner was nodded on by Phil Jones and Sturridge headed it over.

The half ended with a route one effort from the Central Americans. Levanteʼs goalkeeper Keylor Navas Gamboa booted it 80 yards up the pitch, but Randall Brenes Moya lacked composure and his effort ballooned up into Fosterʼs arms.

Navas performed heroically, taking Sturridgeʼs studs in his leg as he bravely claimed at the strikerʼs feet three minutes into the second half as Luke Shawʼs cross ballooned up into the area. With just under an hour played Adam Lallana was played in behind the defence on the left. He squared it for Sturridge, but Navas intercepted before it could reach Sturridge.


Chris Smalling passed to Wilshere who found Sturridge, but the striker missed again from close range and with just over 20 minutes remaining Sturridge was poised to shoot, but an excellent tackle by Miguel Rodríguez Echevaria conceded a corner rather than the penalty some hoped for. Steven Gerrard was brought on for a few minutes – possibly his last appearance for England. His 88th minute cross was just too high for Wayne Rooney.

England could not find a way past Navas, who is enhancing his reputation with each match at this World Cup. Roy Hodgsonʼs hopes of going far in this competition are over. The three lions finished bottom of the group and Italy bid an acrimonious farewell to Brasil after Luis Suárez was accused of biting Giorgio Chielliniʼs shoulder.

There were controversies in Belo Horizonte too. Campbellʼs early shot was clearly deflected by Gary Cahillʼs hand – accidentally – yet the referee gave a goal-kick. The officials a lunge by Raheem Sterling on Gamboa, giving a corner where a card would have been appropriate. Haimoudi also insisted on pulling play back after Gamboa had broken free from Barkleyʼs attempts to swap shirts during play.

While the referee correctly booked Lallana and Giancarlo González for fouls on Bryan Ruiz González and Barkley respectively, the officials made too many mistakes that were easily exposed by replays. There was nothing as controversial as Frank Lampardʼs disallowed goal in this match, but too much is at stake in modern football for mistakes to be tolerated when they are so easy to correct.

Three former World champions Spain, England and Italy failed to make it out of the group stages, while unfancied Costa Rica top the group. Itʼs been an entertaining and strange World Cup so far.


Costa Rica Humble Italy

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 20th 2012)

Famous Win

Having stunned Uruguay 3-1 in their opening match Colombian coach Jorge Luís Pinto Afanador has master-minded the shock of the World Cup. Costa Rica have qualified for the last sixteen of the World Cup, eliminating England before playing them. Bryan Ruiz González was deemed surplus to requirements by Fulham last season.

This afternoon he scored the goal that sent Roy Hodgsonʼs young team crashing out of the World Cup – one that means that either Uruguay or Italy will be going home early too. Goal difference means that a draw will be enough for Italy, while Uruguay have to beat the Azzurri to progress further.

Whipping Boys – yeah right!

Pintoʼs team were supposed to be there to make up the numbers in a group that contained three former winners of the World Cup. But Costa Rica ignored the script and deservedly add Italy to Uruguayʼs scalp. England could not stem the wizardry of the maestro Andrea Pirlo, but Costa Rica largely controlled the play-maker.

While Mario Balotelli made his presence felt against England he was restricted to a wasteful lob wide after Pirlo had found him in space, a shot parried by Levanteʼs Keylor Navas Gamboa and little else. His petulant tug on a defender to earn the gameʼs first yellow card summed up his match – one that not even Pirlo could turn around.

And it should have been far worse. Júnior Díaz Campbellʼs cross for Joel Campbell Samuels was intercepted by Giorgio Chiellini at the expense of corner, which was punched clear by Gianluigi Buffon. It made its way to Ruiz, whose cross was headed onto roof of net by Óscar Duarte Gaitán. A couple of minutes later the Chilean referee Enrique Osses Zencovich made a decision that was as bizarre as it was wrong.

Chiellini got away with pushing down Campbell after Andrea Barzagli was left trailing in Campbellʼs wake. It clearly should have been a penalty, but thanks to dreadful refereeing Costa Rica got nothing , but the sight of Pinto venting his fury and understandably so. A minute later calm was restored. Júnior Díaz out on the left wing delivered an inch perfect cross to Ruiz at the back post. Ruiz headed it in off cross-bar. ,Goal-line technology shows that it had crossed the line. It proved to be a famous winner.

Both Cesare Prandelli and Roy Hodgson have contracts lasting until 2016. On this showing the Costa Rican Football Federation has to extend Pintoʼs contract. He has defied footballʼs conventional wisdom and should be adequately rewarded for it.



by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 14th 2014)


A stunning performance by Arsenalʼs seemingly permanent on loan Joel Campbell Samuels inspired Costa Rica to a magnificent 3-1 win over one of the pre-tournament favourites Uruguay. Edinson Cavani Gómezʼ 24th minute penalty gave Uruguay the lead after Diego Lugano Morena was fouled by Júnior Díaz Campbell. Uruguay were undone by a second half display of attacking football that is the hallmark of Colombian coach Jorge Pinto Afanador.

Campbell equalised after 54 minutes. Three minutes later Óscar Duarte Gaitán gave Costa Rica a shock lead that the supposed whipping boys of the group. Marcos Ureña Porras, got the third after 84 minutes. There was still time for an utterly disgraceful hack on Campbell by Maxi Pereira Páez to receive a well deserved red card from referee Felix Brych.

With the officiating at this tournament taking a beating Brychʼs performance restored credibility. He was right to give a penalty against Díaz despite the protests that Lugano went down too easily and theatrically. He did fall theatrically – his style – but there was no doubt that Díaz was impeding him with his arms around Luganoʼs waist. Although he immediately apologised Pereiraʼs offence was so disgraceful a red card doesnʼt seem enough.

The Young Maestro

Campbell’s display led to social media trending with Arsenal fans demanding that he should not be loaned out again – apparently there are work permit issues, although itʼs hard to see why. Campbell has been a fixture in Costa Ricaʼs national team for years. He inspired his team tonight with long range shooting and running at the defence which caused problems all night for Uruguayʼs defence and goalkeeper Fernando Muslera Micol.

He went close in the first half from 30 yards out with Muslera well beaten, but just before half-time a superb save by Levanteʼs Keylor Navas Gamboa kept Costa Rica in the match. A deflection off Duarte from veteran striker Diego Forlán Corrazoʼs shot sent Navas scurrying back to his line to tip the ball over – a crucial save.

That allowed Costa Rica to shine as Pintoʼs young side had a go at an ageing Uruguay shorn of their star Luís Suárez Díaz. Suárez could only watch in disbelief as Campbell shone. Cristian Gamboa Luna chased a seemingly lost cause – Bryan Ruiz Gonzálezʼ flick. He got to the right flank and his cross picked out Campbell near the edge of the area. His shot gave Muslera no chance. Costa Rica were level, but they knew that Óscar Tabárez Sclavoʼs team were there for the taking.

Uruguay had never been beaten by the Central Americans in ten previous attempts. The best that Costa Rica had achieved previously were score draws in 1959, 2001 and 2009, but traditions exist to be broken and history to be discarded in favour of making it. Costa Rica inspired by Campbell achieved that.


Duarte bravely dived to meet Ruizʼ free-kick heading past Muslera with Cristian Stuani Curbeloʼs boot perilously close to his head. Costa Rica had taken a seemingly improbable lead, but they wanted more. Another fierce strike from Campbell hit the stanchion before his exquisite pass split the defence for Ruizʼ replacement Ureña to score the third.

In injury time a despondent Pereira brutally hacked Campbell. He thoroughly deserved the straight red card that he was shown. On this showing Uruguay canʼt get Suárez back quickly enough and as we said before Costa Rica can play – Pintoʼs philosophy demands it.


Football pays an emotional tribute to Gary Speed, but Costa Ricans hadn’t read the script – Archive

Editor’s Note:

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.

Derek Miller

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.

Fizzling Out

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.