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Bizarre must-see penalty levels Costa Rica, Switzerland

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A wild finish in Nizhny Novgorod saw Costa Rica come back to draw Switzerland 2-2, though the Swiss are the second-place side to move into the Round of 16.

Switzerland led through ex-Montreal Impact midfielder Blerim Dzemaili and later Josip Drmic, but Vancouver Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston and ex-Fulham man Bryan Ruiz found equalizers.

Ruiz’s goal was especially wild, his PK bounding off the bar but hitting the Swiss goalkeeper for what will absurdly be recorded as an own goal.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Dzemaili’s goal came when Breel Embolo leapt to knock down Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross back toward the top of the six.

The knockdown could hardly have found Dzemaili in a more favorable position.

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It was Whitecaps stalwart Waston who restored the deadlock off a 56th minute set piece.

MLS defenses have seen this before…

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Switzerland went ahead through Drmic, and then almost gave the lead right back. A penalty was awarded to Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz, but the ex-Fulham man was found offside via VAR.

No matter, Costa Rica got its penalty late, and converted it in… unusual fashion. Joel Campbell’s effort won the PK, and Ruiz’s shot hit the bar, then Swiss goalkeeper Jan Sommer’s head to make it 2-2.

2018 World Cup team preview: Costa Rica

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Getting to know Costa Rica: One of the most perennially underrated teams, Costa Rica is a threat to the world soccer order each time they take the field. With a solid mix of good attacking talent and a solid defensive base, Costa Rica has the experience and flair to prove a challenge for even the biggest world powers.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Last World Cup, Costa Rica won a power group consisting of Italy, England, and Uruguay conceding just one goal among those three games – that alone should prove to teams not to take Los Ticos lightly. They beat Greece in the Round of 16 before their luck against European sides eventually ran out in a quarterfinal loss to the Netherlands in a penalty shootout.

All that being said, the run-up to the World Cup this time around has been anything but promising. Los Ticos have suffered friendly shutout losses to Hungary, Tunisia, and England all since last November, and before that got plastered by Spain. They have one more stiff test against Belgium to turn the bad juju around, or else they head into the tournament on a very sour note. There are questions about the age of the squad core, leaving this team with one of the highest ceilings and lowest floors of any team at the competition.

For more on Costa Rica’s World Cup adventure, click here.


What group are they in? Group E alongside Brazil, Switzerland, and Serbia. It’s a group with few genuinely weak teams, and second place will be up for grabs behind perennial powerhouse Brazil. Switzerland is the favored side to take the second spot, but it’s not exactly stiff competition. If Costa Rica can summon the magic of four years ago, it would be anything but a surprise to see them advance to the knockout stages.


Game schedule – Group E

Sunday, June 17: Costa Rica v Serbia, Samara 8am, ET
Friday, June 22: Brazil v Costa Rica, Saint Petersburg 8am, ET
Wednesday, June 27: Switzerland v Costa Rica, Novgorod 2pm, ET


Projected lineup (5-4-1) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Navas —–

— Gamboa — Acosta — Gonzalez — Duarte — Oviedo —

— Campbell — Borges — Tejeda — Ruiz

— Urena/Venegas —


Star player: Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas is easily the most well-known player on this squad. The vice-captain of the side gives Costa Rica an experience edge, having played at the highest of high levels. Navas is coming off his third straight Champions League title at Madrid, and will likely reach the 80-cap mark with Costa Rica at this tournament. Navas used his brilliant performance at the 2014 World Cup to earn his move to Real Madrid, and four years later will have the weight of a country on his shoulders.


Manager: Óscar Ramírez leads his home nation to the World Cup for the first time, having taken over in 2015. Ramirez was in the right place at the right time, hired as an assistant to Paulo Wanchope in August of 2015 only to find himself as the lead man a week later following Wanchope’s dismissal after a fight. Ramirez lost his first match in charge of Los Ticos – to Brazil 1-0 on a 10th minute goal by Hulk. He will look to get revenge on the biggest of stages.


Secret weapon: Bryan Ruiz is the captain and creative force for Costa Rica, and has been for years. He was often described as “too good” for Fulham during his four years at Craven Cottage as nobody could figure out how to correctly deploy the midfielder, but he has run the show for his home country time and time again. Ruiz is known for his pitch vision and field marshal mentality, but isn’t afraid to get down and dirty when necessary.


Prediction: As mentioned before, the ceiling is just as high for this Costa Rica side as the floor is low, and Group E is one of the toughest to predict in the tournament. If they can steal a point from Brazil, the knockout stages will beckon for Ramirez and company, but the match against Switzerland to close out group stage play will likely be the judgement of their fate. Look for them to make it through for the second straight World Cup.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying preview: Beyond USMNT-Mexico

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Outside of the United States’ rivalry match with Mexico — just about everything you need to know for that is here — CONCACAF’s other Hex contestants debut on Friday as well.

[ CONMEBOL: Argentina in trouble ]

Panama opens up its Hex at home with a visit from Honduras. Panama’s six MLS players star with longtime LA Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo and captain Felipe Baloy. Contrast that veteran squad with what’s across the field: a Honduran corps that mixes veteran savvy in the form of Boniek Garcia, Maynor Figueroa, and Roger Espinoza with electric young Olympic stars Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. That one kicks early, at 3:35 p.m. EDT.

Costa Rica is on the road before its Tuesday home match with the U.S., and its destination for Friday’s opener is Trinidad and TobagoLos Ticos still rank ahead of the United States in FIFA rankings at 18th, and new coach Oscar Ramirez has a Hex-experiences squad including Keylor Navas, Bryan Ruiz, Michael Umana, Celso Borges, and Joel Campbell amongst others. Kickoff from Costa Rica is scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT.

T&T takes the place of Jamaica, and will hope for a better fate than the Reggae Boyz of 2014. Jamaica scooped up just five draws in finishing six points shy of the interconfederation playoff spot.

UEFA Champions League roundup: Hosts, including Manchester United, go five-for-five in playoff first legs

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Aside from a pair of away goals, the five visiting sides of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff first legs don’t have much to do beside lick their wounds and hope for something better at home.

CSKA Moscow and Club Brugge both scored on the road, but both also lost on Tuesday. And Bayer Leverkusen, Partizan Belgrade and APOEL Nicosia find themselves down 1-0 after 90 road minutes.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Here are your quick recaps:

Manchester United 3-1 Club Brugge
— RECAP | Van Gaal reacts

Memphis Depay scored twice and added a valuable stoppage time assist as the Red Devils overcame an early Michael Carrick own goal to set themselves up well for next Wednesday’s second leg in Belgium.

Lazio 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Keita Balde Diao scored in the 77th minute, eight minutes after Bayer had a goal controversially but correctly ruled offside.

BATE Borisov 1-0 Partizan Belgrade
The visitors went down to 10 men after a first half stoppage time red card, and Mikhail Gordeychuk reaped the rewards off a corner kick with a quarter hour to play.

Astana 1-0 APOEL Nicosia
Eleven-times capped Kazakh midfielder Bauryzhan Dzolchiev, 25, scored the lone goal of a close match in the 13th minute.

source: AP
Ruiz (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Sporting Lisbon 2-1 CSKA Moscow
Islam Slimani’s 82nd minute goal lifts the Portuguese side into a first leg lead. Seydou Doumbia scored for the visitors. Costa Rican attacker Bryan Ruiz had an assist for the victors.

Wednesday’s UCL first legs (all at 2:45 p.m. ET)
Valencia vs. Monaco
Basel vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Celtic vs. Malmo
Rapid Wien vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Skenderbeu vs. GNK Dinamo

Gold Cup Today: Canada in Toronto for huge clash vs. Costa Rica; Jamaica vs. El Salvador — Day 11

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For the only time during the 2015 Gold Cup campaign, two games will be played in Canada on Tuesday. And there couldn’t be a better time for the Canadian national team to get some home support.

[ LIVE: 2015 Gold Cup updates ]

Benito Floro’s side have yet to win in their opening two group games and now face co-favorites to win it all, Costa Rica, knowing they must win to advance. Tricky stuff. As for Costa Rica, a defeat will likely see them out of the tournament too. Plenty is on the line in Ontario.

Below is a brief primer on what to expect from both games, while you can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.

Game 15: Jamaica vs. El Salvador
When: Tuesday, 6 p.m. ET
Where: BMO Field, Toronto
Live updates: NBCSports.com

The Reggae Boyz can realx as they’ve already sealed their spot in the quarterfinals, but Winfried Schaefer’s side will want to guarantee top spot in Group B by beating El Salvador. Rodolph Austin’s late winner against Canada sealed Jamaica’s entry into the last eight following a promising 2-2 draw with Costa Rica in their opening game. As for El Salvador, it’s complicated. Even if they lose they could still go through depending on how Canada get on vs. Costa Rica and will be hoping for a draw from Cuba vs. Guatemala tomorrow.

Game 16: Canada vs. Costa Rica
When: Tusday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: BMO Field, Toronto
Live updates: NBCSports.com

What a massive game this is. Canada will play in front of their own fans at BMO Field hoping to grab a win against Costa Rica and nothing less will do. Expect an attack-minded lineup from Floro and if the Canadians score early then Costa Rica could be in big trouble. However, we all know how good Los Ticos and after squandering leads in their opening two group games, the likes of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell will look to put this result beyond any doubt in front of a fired up home crowd. If Canada can pull this off, it would be a marquee moment.