The Costa Rica national football team, nicknamed La Sele or Los Ticos, is the national team of Costa Rica and is controlled by the Federación Costarricense de Fútbol. Costa Rica is the third most successful team in CONCACAF after Mexico and the United States. They are the most successful team in Central America having qualified to four World Cups, including reaching the last sixteen on their debut in Italy 1990. In 2006, Costa Rica qualified for the World Cup in Germany, with their worst World Cup to date, finishing 31st out of 32 teams. Costa Rica has qualified first in the CONCACAF Final Round in both the 1990 World Cup qualification final round and 2002 World Cup qualification final round. Costa Rica is currently second in the CONCACAF Final Round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The football team of Costa Rica has been characterized above all by its regularity over the years. Well remembered is the selection of this country formed in the late 1940s acquiring the nickname of "The Gold Shorties". Throughout the 50s and 60s, were very much the second strongest team in the CONCACAF zone behind Mexico, finishing runners-up in World Cup qualifying in the 1958, 1962 and 1966 qualifiers. Stars of the side in this period were Ruben Jimenez, Errol Daniels, Leonel Hernandez and Edgar Marin.
However, at the end of the 60s their fortunes would decline as other teams in the region such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago and Canada came to the fore. Although the majority of these participants have had short on points World Cup performances. During the 1970s and most of the 1980s, the Costa Rican team went unnoticed, absent from World Cups. Costa Rica failed to make the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying rounds until the 1986 qualifier. Currently its historical topscorer is Rolando Fonseca with 47 goals.
Costa Rica participated in 2 straight Summer Olympic Games, in Moscow 1980 and in Los Angeles 1984. In 1980, Costa Rica competed against Yugoslavia, Finland and Irak, in Group D, losing all 3 games 2-3, 0-3 and 0-3 respectively. Los Angeles saw Costa Rica´s first win in a worldwide international participation. Again in Group D, the Ticos played against The United States, Egypt and Italy. The game against The US ended in a loss, 0-3. The second game didn´t see much improvement, 1-4 against Egypt. But in the last game, against an italian squad that included Walter Zenga, Pietro Vierchowood, Franco Baresi and Aldo Serena, Costa Rica prevailed 1-0, with an Enrique Rivers goal.
After a great campaign in the CONCACAF Championship in 1989, Costa Rica got their first ticket to the finals of a World Cup where they made a huge showing after beating Scotland and Sweden in the first round. It all started with a tie against Panama. To advance to the qualifying group stage. Costa Rica suffered against the Panamanians in the first game at Alejandro Morera Soto Stadium in Alajuela, and ended up taking a local one to one tie. In the second game at the stadium Revolution (now Rommel Fernández), two goals from Juan Arnoldo Cayasso gave the away victory to Costa Rica 0–2 victory to advanced to the group stage. Costa Rica started the group stage with a defeat in Guatemala by 1 to 0. Then beat the same Guatemala 2–1 at home, goals from Róger Flores and Evaristo Coronado. Then Coasta Rica beat the U.S. in San Jose by 1–0 with a goal from Gilberto Rodden. Then they lost to the U.S. 1–0 in St. Louis – Missouri. Following this they tied in Trinidad and Tobago 1 to 1, the scorer was Evaristo Coronado. Beat Trinidad and Tobago in San Jose with a goal by Juan Arnoldo Cayasso. A substantial away win was next for the Ticos in El Salvador at the Cuzcatlán by 2–4, with goals from Carlos Mario Hidalgo, Enrique Diaz and a double from Leonidas Flores. Finally in the last game a victory over El Salvador in San Jose by 1 goal to 0 signified a trip to the 1990 Fifa World Cup. Pastor Fernandez scored the lone goal. Costa Rica finished first with 11 points in the pentagonal and the United States in second also with 11 points in 8 games respectably both qualifying, but Costa Rica first on goal difference. Mexico was disqualified from this qualifier because of youth player age tampering.
After its brilliant performance in the Italian summer, the national team failed to qualify for World Cup USA 1994 and France 1998 due to lack of planning and poor results. It was an important and historical moment when, in 1997 Costa Rica was invited for the first time to the Copa América held in Bolivia, Costa Rica also played memorable friendlies including a 5–4 defeat against Uruguay in Estadio Centenario.
After the resounding failures in qualifying for the World Cup 1994 and World Cup 1998, the Ticos won the qualification for the World Cup in 2002 held in South Korea and Japan, in which they finished in first place. This included victories against favorites Mexico and the United States. During the World Cup the results were mixed, losing to Brazil (tournament champion) 5–2 (only team to score 2 goals against Brazil at this World Cup), tying with Turkey (third in the championship) 1–1 and soundly beating China 2–0. Costa Rica finished in 3rd place in their group, behind Turkey on goal difference. The match against Brazil is remembered as one of the most exciting matches of the tournament. During the qualifiers, though, Costa Rica started with many ups and downs, first in command of Brazilian coach Gilson Nunes Sequeira and then with Costa Rican Alexandre Guimarães. The first group stage began with an unexpected defeat to Barbados 1–2. After this humilliating loss, Costa Rica proceeded to beat the United States at the Ricardo Saprissa stadium 2–1, with goals from Rolando Fonseca and Hernan Medford. Then, they beat Guatemala in the Morera Soto Alajuela by 2–1, with two goals from Paulo Wanchope and defeated Barbados at the Ricardo Saprissa 3–0, with goals from Jafet Soto, Rolando Fonseca and Hernan Medford. After this good run, Costa Rica's level decreased and took a scoreless match against the United States, then lost to Guatemala in Mazatenango 2–1. This result forced to play a playoff against Guatemala in Miami, Florida. The match was won 5–2 by Costa Rica with two goals from Rolando Fonseca, one from Paulo Wanchope, one from Reynaldo Parks and Jafeth Soto. Costa Rica displayed a very offensive form with a rather solid front line, thanks to their new coach, Alexandre Guimaraes. This display of football evidenced itself during the final hexagonal round, although it began with a draw against Honduras at the Ricardo Saprissa 2–2, with goals from Rolando Fonseca and Rodrigo Cordero. Then Costa Rica defeated Trinidad and Tobago in a 3–0 win at the Morera Soto. Their only loss in this final round came thanks to the U.S., who defeated Costa Rica 1–0. Afterwards, Costa Rica bounced back with a huge win against Mexico in Mexico city 1–2, which is usually referred as the "Aztecazo", with goals from Rolando Fonseca and Hernan Medford. Morale was high after this game, and Costa Rica proceeded to beat Jamaica 2–1 in Alajuela. Again, Costa Rica came away with a great away win over Honduras in Tegucigalpa 2–3, goals scored by Paulo Wanchope, Rolando Fonseca and Mauricio Solis. A crucial away win in Port of Spain against Trinidad and Tobago 2–0, with two goals from Rónald Gómez, meant Costa Rica was just 3 points away from a premature qualification to the World Cup. Costa Rica sealed their qualification to Korea/Japan in a ver emotional match against the U.S. by beating them 2–0 in the Saprissa, with a double from Rolando Fonseca. The final 2 games were uneventful, as Costa Rica managed a goaless tie with Mexico at the Ricardo Saprissa and defeated already-eliminated Jamaica 0–1, using subs and reserves. Costa Rica finished first in that hexagonal round with 23 points in 10 games, ahead of the United States and Mexico.
Qualifying for the World Cup 2006, Costa Rica had an uneven season but managed to make the qualification to the World Cup. On 9 June 2006, Costa Rica made its debut in the opening match in Munich against the host German squad, losing the match 4–2.
However, the good performance in that game did not translate over to the other games, where they fell 0–3 against Ecuador, and 1–2 against Poland. This time they also started the journey with ups and downs. First in command U.S. coach Steve Sampson, who was separated after qualifying with doubts over Cuba in the preliminary phase, Both these games results were ties. First in Havana 2–2, with goals Douglas Sequeira and Álvaro Saborío, and then in the second game at the Morera Soto in Alajuela 1–1. Costa Rica advanced to the away goals.
The Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto took over in the group stage. He began with an unheard of 2–5 defeat against Honduras in Costa Rica. Then they visited Guatemala and lost 1–2. Bounced back against Canada at the Saprissa 1–0, with a goal from Paulo Wanchope. Then a resounding triumph over Guatemala in Tibas 5 to 0, a hat-trick from Paulo Wanchope, single goals from Carlos Hernández and Rolando Fonseca resounding. Vancouver,Canada meant a decent 1–3 win, with goals from Paulo Wanchope, William Sunsing and Carlos Hernández. They pulled a goalless draw against Honduras in San Pedro Sula. Costa Rica advanced to the hexagonal winning their group. In the final round they started with a defeat at the Saprissa against Mexico by 1–2. Paulo Wanchopes' goal was not enough. They beat Panama in the Saprissa by 2–1, with goals from Wayne Wilson and Roy Myrie.
In Port of Spain tied Trinidad and Tobago in a disappointing scoreless draw. This result marked Pinto's dismissal and the arrival of Alexandre Guimarães. He and the team lost the visit to the United States by 3–0. Guatemala was beaten at the Saprissa 3–2, with goals from Carlos Hernández, Ronald Gomez and Paulo Wanchope. Then lost in Mexico by 2–0. The ticos sank Panama in an away match at the Rommel Fernández 1–3, with goals from Álvaro Saborío, Ronald Gomez and Walter Centeno. Then beat Trinidad and Tobago at the Saprissa by 2–0 with goals from Walter Centeno and Álvaro Saborío.
Decisively beating the United States in the Saprissa by 3–0 equaled clinching the selections third World Cup birth. The first Goal was scored by Paulo Wanchope plus a Double from Carlos Hernández. With the ticket to Germany assured then traveled to Guatemala for a 3–1 loss. Roy Myrie scored their only goal. Costa Rica finished third behind the United States and Mexico in the standings.
A very strange start for the Ticos. They faced Granada in the second phase, drew the first leg 2–2, and then won the return by 3–0. In the third phase, forming the Group 3, won all six games played against the teams of El Salvador (1–0 and 3–1), Haiti (3–1 and 2–0) and Suriname (7–0 and 4 -1) in both outward and return. Skipping ahead towards the end of the final phase with Costa Rica achieving 12 points and Honduras 13 points. This meant a dramatic fight for the final spot to qualify for the South African World Cup. Costa Rica had to win their last two games and hope that the selection of Honduras lost. In the first instance they did well. Honduras lost at home 2–3 to the United States. Costa Rica on the other had won 4–0 against Trinidad and Tobago and overtook Honduras in the standings. Honduras closed their matches in El Salvador. However, Costa Rica still needed to give a good showing at the final match in the United States. This was achieved in-part. All went well for the Ticos winning 2–0 at halftime in Washington, D.C.. In the second half the United States scored at the 71st and 95th minutes and the Ticos only finished with a tie. Honduras's, 1–0 victory over El Salvador was devastating. Both Costa Rica and Honduras finished the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification CONCACAF Fourth Round with 16 points. Honduras slipped into the 2010 FIFA World Cup on goal difference. The Costa Ricans finished fourth in the Concacaf final qualifying round and were sent to a playoff with the fifth seated CONMEBOL team. In the playoff, Costa Rica faced Uruguay. In the first leg in San Jose. The Ticos lost 0–1, the Costa Rians finished the match with ten men on the pitch because Randall Azofeifa was sent off at the 52' with his second yellow card. Goal scored by defender Diego Lugano sky. The second leg, played at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo. The goals were scored by Sebastián Abreu at the 70' and Walter Centeno 74' and finished in a 1–1 tie. Costa Rica was not able to take advantage of a slight extension of the game or "extra time". Uruguay won 2–1 on aggregate.
The Costa Rica national football team failing to qualify for 2010 World Cup in South Africa, began with the need to initiate a new era, based on the combined generational shift with young but experienced talent such as Bryan Ruiz, Keylor Navas, Cristian Bolaños, Randall Azofeifa, Michael Barrantes and of course the very young and upcoming star Joel Campbell. Rónald González was interim contract before hiring in September 2010 of Ricardo La Volpe, whose job lasted only 10 months to be replaced by the Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto, in his second chance in front of the national team, with the goal of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. This era has been characterized by friendlies against the top ranked teams in the world, including world champion Spain, most of them through the construction of the new national stadium.
The Ticos' campaign to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup began in June with a 2–2 draw against El Salvador. The Ticos followed this up with a 4–0 win over Guyana with a hat trick by Álvaro Saborío. In September, Costa Rica hit a bump in the road with 2–0 and 1–0 defeats to rivals Mexico, putting the Ticos one defeat away of being eliminated. On 12 October, Costa Rica resurrected their campaign with a 1–0 win against El Salvador with the only goal scored by Jose Miguel Cubero. On 16 October, they finally clinched a final round berth with a 7–0 win over Guyana with goals scored by Randall Brenes, Álvaro Saborío, Cristian Bolaños, Celso Borges and Cristian Gamboa.
The fourth round began with a 2–2 draw against Panama. In March, Costa Rica lost 1–0 against the United States in Denver, Colorado. The Costa Rican Football Federation appealed the match due to inclement weather in Denver, but FIFA rejected the appeal as being without basis. Despite feeling aggrieved by the meteorological conditions, Costa Rica would again fall to the US 1-0 in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup that June. On March 26th, Costa Rica won at home 2–0 against Jamaica. In June, Costa Rica won 1–0 against Honduras, tied 0–0 at the Estadio Azteca against Mexico and won at home 2–0 against Panama. In September, Costa Rica won 3 - 1 against the United States in Estadio Nacional in San José.
On September 10 Costa Rica tied with Jamaica. Goals were scored by Randall Brenes at the 73rd minute and by Jermain Anderson at the 90th minute. Despite losing its lead, Costa Rica qualified to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, with two games to spare. After a 1-0 loss at Honduras and 2-1 win over Mexico in October, Costa Rica finished second in the final CONCACAF qualifying round table behind the United States.
Costa Rica wears traditionally a red jersey with blue shorts and red socks. Its away kit historically was a Juventus-style Black and White Striped Jersey with white shorts and white socks.(due to these colors being the ones of CS La Libertad, one of the oldest clubs in Costa Rica) However after 1997, the striped kit was replaced by a white kit with blue shorts.