The Ticos missed out on the 2010 World Cup, but they are back after a strong qualifying campaign and will look to spring a surprise or two in Brazil. With Real Salt Lake forward Álvaro Saborío leading the team in scoring during the CONCACAF Hexagonal, Costa Rica may be flying under the radar, but their five-man backline may prove tough to crack for even the world's best teams.

Bryan Ruiz, F/M, Fulham: The lanky winger may be Costa Rica’s captain, but he has sometimes struggled to elevate his team on the international stage. As the best-known Costa Rican player worldwide, Ruiz will likely be well-marked in games, but if he can be more than a decoy on the field, Costa Rica may have a shot at making it to the knockout stage.
Álvaro Saborío, F, Real Salt Lake: Costa Rica relied heavily on Saborío to provide the goals, and he responded in a big way, bagging eight during the qualification cycle. The challenge will be to ensure the 2013 MLS Latino del Año remains healthy ahead of the World Cup, and that he’s in good form, since he's been a streaky player for Costa Rica.
Joel Campbell, F, Olympiacos: The speedy 21-year-old has been tipped to be the next Costa Rican star, and Arsenal made the leap of faith to sign him. Work-visa issues have meant that Campbell has been on loan around Europe the last three seasons as we await his breakout season. Although many will remember him for his infamous dive against the US in qualifying, he could wind up impressing in Brazil if he can harness his skills.
THE COACH  Jorge Luis Pinto is in his second stint in charge of Costa Rica after being re-hired in 2011. The Colombian has considerable experience coaching on the club front in South America and Costa Rica, and had a stint as boss of his own national team.
Perhaps understanding the need to solidify his defense, Pinto has enjoyed considerable success employing a five-man defense during qualifying. The strategy worked, as los Ticos qualified, beating the USA and Mexico along the way, and moving just outside the Top 30-ranked teams in the world (No. 31 in November 2013).
WCQ record: 5-2-3, 18 pts. / 13 GF, 7 GA (second place in CONCACAF Hexagonal)
Costa Rica won all five matches at home in the CONCACAF Hexagonal, and lost only to Honduras and the United States on the road (the US loss was the now-famous “snow game” at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in March 2013). Although they benefitted from a very poor campaign by Mexico, Costa Rica clearly set themselves apart as the second-best team during the Hex.

Fourth appearance (1990, 2002, 2006, 2014)
After making the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, Costa Rica are back in the tournament after missing out in 2010. Their best showing came in their first World Cup in 1990, when they shocked the world and advanced to the Round of 16. They will need to be at their best, and may need some luck to make a similar run in 2014, but they will certainly be looking to show that CONCACAF quality does not end at the US and Mexico.


Among the most discussed teams to qualify, Belgium return to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years. Featuring a young group stocked with stars, they have the talent to really impress in Brazil. In fact, their exploits in qualifying make them a dark horse candidate to make a deep run.
Eden Hazard, M, Chelsea : The attacking midfielder is just 22, but he already has experience leading a team (watch highlight reel), as he helped lead Lille to a Ligue 1 title in France, and has been a fixture at Chelsea. He will be carrying the weight of expectation for what is expected to be a potent Belgian attack.
Vincent Kompany, D, Manchester City: With a young team expected to make waves at the World Cup, it will be up to the captain to keep the squad focused on and off the field. Despite his experience winning titles, Kompany has battled injury problems recently, and if he can’t get fully fit for the tournament, Belgium’s defense and attitude will likely take a big hit.
Romelu Lukaku, F, Everton: Belgium have an absolute embarrassment of riches up top, and 20-year-old Lukaku looks to be the latest to tap into his vast potential. The powerful striker will have the motivation to impress Chelsea boss José Mourinho at the World Cup, and could be the breakout player of the tournament.
THE COACH  Marc Wilmots, hired in May 2012 after serving as assistant coach, has vast World Cup experience, having played in three for Belgium during a successful playing career (1994, 1998, 2002).
Though he doesn't have a great deal of coaching experience, the former attacking midfielder has the respect of his team, and Wilmots has been credited with helping the Belgians deal with rising expectations during the qualifying campaign. The next step is to give an impressive showing in Brazil, with expectations soaring once more for the Red Devils.
WCQ record: 8-0-2, 26 pts. / 18 GF, 4 GA (first place in Europe’s Group A)
Belgium sailed through their qualifying group unbeaten, and impressively beat both Croatia and Serbia on the road. While it can be argued that the Belgians had a favorable group in qualifying, they bucked a generation of poor results, managed to back up the hype with results and qualified for their first major international tournament in 12 years.

12th appearance
Prior to the recent World Cup drought, Belgium featured in six consecutive tournaments from 1982-2002. Their best showing came in 1986, when the squad finished fourth and budding star Enzo Scifo was named best young player of the tournament. In 2002, the Belgians were knocked out in the round of 16 by eventual champions Brazil.

They're not exactly a household name in the soccer world, but the Bosnians have some real stars that can do some major damage in their first-ever World Cup.
But whatever the final results in Brazil, their appearance is sure to help to unite a young nation (only 21 years of independence) still grappling with political and ethnic divisions (listen to this BBC report on what the soccer team's success really means).

Edin Dzeko, F, Manchester City : He's the biggest name on the team and he delivered during qualifying with 10 goals, forming a deadly partnership with Vedad Ibisevic (8 goals). This might just be the only way to stop him.
Asmir Begovic, GK, Stoke City: Many consider him a Top 5 'keeper in the English Premier League, not only for his saves (watch highlight reel), but also because he can even score goals (watch it here). He's probably glad he switched to play for No. 16-ranked Bosniainstead of Canada (ranked No. 111).
Zvjezdan Misimovic, M, Guizhou Renhe FC : Dzeko and Ibisevic get all the headlines, but Mismovic is the man pulling the strings . The 31-year-old may be playing in the soccer backwoods of China, but Bosnia can’t do it without him and his all-time caps record proves it.


Safet Susic  was a legend long before he took over the reins of the Bosnian national team (watch this video to understand why).
Now a monument can’t be too far behind after what he’s done as coach, transforming BiH (native abbreviation) from a mid-level European nation to one of the Top 20-ranked teams in the world (No. 16 in Oct. 2013).
WCQ record: 8-1-1, 25 pts. / 30 GF, 6 GA (first place in Europe’s Group G)

Bosnia-Herzegovina beat up on the weaker teams (Liechtenstein, Latvia and Lithuania) and more importantly came away with four out of six points from their head-to-head with group favorites Greece. But they still needed a superior goal difference (+24 compared to Greece’s +8) to earn the automatic berth as group winners.

First appearance
The 2014 World Cup is Bosnia-Herzegovina’s first foray in a major international competition, but they’ve come close in recent years. In fact, they managed to advance to a playoff for a berth to both the 2010 World Cup and the Euro 2012 championships, only for Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal to oust them on both occasions with goals like this. It's clearly why Bosnians greet him at the airport to chants of "Messi."

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