As the World Cup draws to a close and teams, players, coaches, pundits & fans alike reflect on what was and what could have been, we at Outside of the Boot under our Talent Radar feature recognise the best young players at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The eligibility criteria for this list are all those players who were 21 and below at the start of the 2013/14 season (taken as June 1st 2013).
What was expected of him? While the expectations of Costa Rica were meager at best, many expected Joel Campbell to shine in the World Cup. Coming off the back of 2 loan spells, the latter of which included Champions League football for Olympiacos, the exciting youngster was tipped by many to catch the eye. As it turns out, Campbell certainly lived up to those expectations while his team most certainly surpassed theirs.
How did he perform? Costa Rica opened their World Cup campaign against a Uruguay side deprived of the services of an injured Luis Suarez. The South Americans were looking for a crucial 3 points ahead of their encounters against England and Italy. Indeed the first half looked to be following the script before Costa Rica decided to insert their own narrative in the second half. Campbell who played as the focal point of the attack was instrumental in a rousing comeback. Indeed it was the Arsenal player who got the equalizer drilling home a left footed strike past a stranded Muslera. Costa Rica soon surged ahead and subsequently doubled their lead courtesy a delightfully weighted through ball from Campbell which Urena finished clinically. Campbell was also the victim of Pereira’s vicious tackle which led to the latter being sent off.
Next up for the Costa Rican side was European giants Italy. The Central American side proved that victory over Uruguay was no flash in the pan as they sealed qualification with a 1-0 victory. In truth, Costa Rica could have won by a bigger margin as they were denied a stonewall penalty. Chiellini failed to control a pass and the ball fell into the path of Campbell. With space in front of him, the youngster drove forward with the ball in his customary fashion. Having turned Barzagli, the forward looked set to let fly with his dangerous left foot before being fouled by Chiellini. The referee was probably the only person in the entire stadium who didn’t consider it a foul but Costa Rica were not to be denied victory as Ruiz headed in the solitary goal of the game. Campbell was substituted in the 74th minute.
With Jorge Pinto’s side having already secured qualification, the last group match against an eliminated England was quite a low key affair. Campbell’s main contribution on the night came early in the piece. The youngster is not shy of letting fly on goal from outside the area, just ask Manchester United fans. Campbell did the same against England as his long range strike deflected of Gary Cahill and wasn’t too far off target as Foster was rooted to the spot. He was replaced by Urena in the 65th minute ahead of the knockout stages.
The Round of 16 encounter against Greece had plenty of drama but wasn’t the most flowing game. Campbell struggled to make an impact in a tight first half. He did play a role in the build up to the goal as he found Bolanos who set-up Ruiz’s strike. After Duarte’s sending off, Costa Rica understandably sat deeper and deeper which further isolated Campbell. As Sokratis’ late equalizer sent the game into injury time, the youngster visibly tired. He however found the energy to take a calm penalty sending the ‘keeper the wrong way as the Costa Ricans entered the quarter-finals.
Having exceeded all expectations already, Los Ticos went into the quarter-final clash against the Dutch with guarded optimism. Campbell once again led the line for them and threatened early on with a low cross that couldn’t find Gamboa. The left-footed player also had a penalty appeal in the second half. With the ball on the left wing, Campbell surged into the box and then moved towards the near post to get on the end of the cut-back. Bruno Martins Indi did just enough to ease him out of the way just as he looked set to pull the trigger. This turned out to be his last contribution to the cause in Brazil as he was replaced by Urena soon after.
Campbell played an important role in Los Ticos’ great campaign and once again proved that Arsenal have a very promising young player on their books. The youngster would be a bit disappointed he couldn’t add to his goals tally after their first game. Having said that, Campbell impressed with his running on the ball, quick feet and excellent long range shooting. Definitely a player to watch out for in the future.
More from Talent Radar: Joel Campbell is not new to the Talent Radar feature and indeed we’ve kept a close eye on his performances during the World Cup. Here is a detailed analysis of the youngster’s performance against Uruguay. He also featured in our list of Top 10 goals by young players at the World Cup with his strike against Uruguay coming in at number 6. In our review of Group D, we selected Campbell as the Best Young Player of the group.
What does the future hold for him in the national team? Costa Rica were the revelation of the World Cup with their organization and counter attacking system which relied heavily on the wing-backs. The tournament has given them a springboard for success and the development of players like Campbell will be crucial if Los Ticos are to have sustained success.