Why Joel Campbell Can Be Costa Rica's Attacking Spark at the 2014 World Cup

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2014

Costa Rica's Joel Campbell (9) drives to the goal as Ireland's Stephen Quinn defends during the second half of an international friendly soccer match on Friday, June 6, 2014, in Chester, Pa. The match ended in a 1-1 tie. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Michael Perez/Associated Press

CHESTER, Pa. — In Costa Rica's final tune-up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, they faced plenty of adversity after Giancarlo Gonzalez was shown red in the 41st minute for an elbow on the Republic of Ireland's Kevin Doyle.

After the half, the Ticos used that adversity to their advantage and showed character by dominating the final 45 minutes through the feet of Joel Campbell.

Campbell, who belongs to Arsenal but has spent his last three seasons on loan at three different clubs, provided a welcome spark on the right wing, as his side pushed forward in search of an equalizer. 

The Ticos, who will face Uruguay, Italy and England in Group D, found that equalizer after Campbell sprung Marcos Urena with a pass. Urena earned himself a penalty after he appeared to be taken down by Ireland keeper David Forde, and then Celso Borges tied the game at 1-1 from the spot.

Before and after the goal, Campbell proved to be a menace on the right side of the pitch against any Irish defender who tried to stop him.

On some occasions, he did get a bit too flashy with his footwork, which is not uncommon for any Costa Rican player, but he did attract all the attention in his direction so that his teammates could have a go at the goal guarded by Forde.

"He was really excellent in the second half. I think that it didn't come as any surprise to us because of his performances in the Champions League. He looks as if he has a really grand future," Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill said after the match. 

Although he hasn't featured for the Gunners, and played against many of the England team members in the English Premier League, Campbell did show why he was recruited by Arsenal in the first place this past season with Olympiacos.

PIRAEUS, GREECE - AUGUST 25:  Joel Campbell of Olympiacos FC in action during the greek Super League match between Olympiacos FC and Atromitos FC at Karaiskakis Stadium on August 25, 2013 in Piraeus, Greece.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Campbell scored six goals in league play and impressed many during his time in the Champions League group stage against the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica. 

The one potential matchup that is mouthwatering in Brazil for Campbell is the one against Leighton Baines, who barring any injury will be employed at left-back for the Three Lions. 

Baines is one of the best left-backs in the world, and he has proved with every game at Everton that he can defend some of the world's top talent. 

The speed that Campbell possesses is something Baines has certainly seen before, and unlike his Irish counterparts, he will have the knowledge and skill to deal with the 21-year-old. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 30:  Jean Deza of Peru and Leighton Baines of England compete for the ball during the international friendly match between England and Peru at Wembley Stadium on May 30, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

One thing playing in Baines' favor is how weak the Ticos are in the center of the pitch near the penalty area, which is a weakness that a star full-back can exploit by forcing a winger like Campbell in to the direction of more defenders. 

Campbell also has some motivation heading into Brazil, as he looks to impress some of the biggest clubs in the world on the world's biggest stage.

Since his move to Arsenal has not worked out, thanks to a plethora of reasons, Campbell has the chance to add to his resume against three terrific teams in a group, where not many people think the Ticos will do well. 

Campbell may have put everyone on notice Friday in the suburbs of Philadelphia against the Republic of Ireland, but his real opportunity to shine will come in the towns of Fortaleza, Recife and Belo Horizonte over the next few weeks. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.