By RICARDO ZUNIGA, AP Sports Writer
Costa Rica stunned the football world by beating former champions Italy and Uruguay in one of the toughest groups in the World Cup, becoming the first team from Group D to advance to the knockout stage.
The small Central America nation of almost 5 million people is famous for its stunning beaches, lush jungles and a laid-back way of life defined by its national motto — Pura Vida!
Five things to know about Costa Rica:
The national motto and tourism slogan loosely translates to Live Life or Enjoy Life. It defines the lifestyle in a country that does not have an army and has been called the “Switzerland of the Americas” because of its neutrality during international conflicts. Its former president Oscar Arias won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.
Located between Nicaragua and Panama, millions visit Costa Rica every year for its tropical jungles, Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea beaches, and an industry based in eco-tourism.
Costa Rica is a prime surfing spot, particularly its Pacific coast beaches, and soccer is a passion for the “Ticos”.
WHAT ABOUT THAT NICKNAME?
By now, the “Ticos” nickname has been heard everywhere the World Cup is televised. But what does it mean? Costa Ricans are called “ticos” because of their unique way of saying diminutives in Spanish. For example, when saying something is small —or “chico” in Spanish— Costa Ricans would say it is “chiquitico,” or very small.
WHO ARE THESE TICOS?
The Costa Rica squad may not have any globally recognizable stars, although it does have players based in top European leagues.
Joel Campbell, a 21-year-old star in the making, played last season for Greek club Olympiakos, on loan from Premier league powerhouse Arsenal. Campbell broke through in the 2011 Copa America, the South America championship where Costa Rica played as a special guest. Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger signed him soon after that tournament, and since then the striker has played on loan in France, Spain and Greece.
Campbell has shined in Brazil with his speed and strength, scoring a goal in the 3-1 win over Uruguay. With two years remaining in his Arsenal contract, Wenger will be hard pressed not to bring Campbell back to Emirates Stadium.
Striker Bryan Ruiz, who scored in the 1-0 win over Italy on Friday, plays for Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, after an unsuccessful spell with Premier League club Fulham, and Keylor Navas is one of the top goalkeepers in the Spanish league with Levante.
Costa Rica is coached by Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto, who is in his second stint as the Ticos manager. The 61-year old Pinto coached Costa Rica in 2004-05 and Colombia in 2007-08, as well as club teams in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Venezuela.
Pinto, who studied in Brazil and Germany, relies on discipline and tactical order, and this Costa Rica team is rarely caught off-guard in attack-to-defense transitions.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Costa Rica has played in four World Cups, and has advanced beyond the group stage for just the second time. The Central Americans advanced to the Round of 16 in its first ever World Cup participation in 1990, when they finished second in their group after beating Scotland (1-0) and Sweden (2-1), and losing to Brazil (1-0).
They lost 4-1 to the former Czechoslovakia in the knockout stage.
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