Joel Campbell Leading from the Front as Costa Rica's World Cup Success Continues

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2014

Costa Rica's Joel Campbell celebrates after winning a penalty shootout at the end of the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Costa Rica and Greece at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, Sunday, June 29, 2014. Costa Rica won 5-3 on penalties after the match ended 1-1.  (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

Costa Rica made themselves a piece of history by qualifying for the last eight of the FIFA World Cup for the first time ever on Sunday night, defeating Greece on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

Having been so close to sealing the victory in the regulation 90 minutes, Costa Rica had to show incredible resilience and spirit to see off Greece over the added 30, with few showing that endeavour—and quality; it shouldn't be forgotten—more than striker Joel Campbell.

Credit to Campbell too. Way he took that penalty after he was pretty much dead on his feet. Kid has incredible spirit and drive. #CRC

— David (@davidjaca) June 29, 2014


Work and Play

Though the forward didn't score on this occasion, he exemplified the work rate that the entire team displayed, constantly looking to offer movement to his midfield team-mates to help move Costa Rica further up the pitch.

Campbell was relentless in his closing down, harassing and hurrying of Greece's deepest players, often forcing them to turn back to retain possession.

Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

When his own side had the ball, Campbell made countless runs down either channel, took the ball into feet and turned the Greece defenders, winning free-kicks late on when his team-mates came under heavy pressure and generally looking to run the ball as far away from his own goalmouth as possible.

He was clearly exhausted by the end of extra time, having put in a terrific amount of work once Costa Rica were down to 10 men.

Previously, that work rate has been allied to a big impact in the final third, with Campbell's pace and direct running a real problem for defenders to handle, whether directly through the centre or coming in off the flanks.

That the forward was still willing to put in the big effort on the other side of the game, when he was largely unable to showcase his normal offensive talents, speaks volumes for not just his own mentality but also that of the entire Costa Rica team.

Keylor Navas might have been making the big saves, but Campbell ensured the defending started from the very front.


Common Opposition

Of course, Greece should have largely known what to expect from Campbell.

Though an Arsenal player, he has been on loan at Olympiacos this past season, playing alongside the likes of Kostas Manolas, Giannis Maniatis and Jose Holebas from the Greek side.

Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

Campbell featured in the Champions League alongside these players and proved he is capable of having an impact, if not an immediate and title-winning one, and his experience at the World Cup can only be a great benefit.



Having finally overcome work-permit issues, Campbell is expected to return to Arsenal for preseason training after the World Cup, though his eventual destination for 2014-15 is still undecided.

Dixon says Arsene admitted to 'nearly selling' Joel Campbell 'recently'. When asked if he will be at #AFC next season 'You will see'.

— Oli Price-Bates (@OliPriceBates) June 29, 2014

At just 22 years of age, he still has time on his side to develop further, and whether he is already in a position to challenge for a starting role with the Gunners remains up for debate, but he will certainly have done his prospects no harm with these performances.

The Daily Mail's Oliver Todd notes that Campbell is "not the answer to Arsenal's striking problems, and labelling him as such would be nothing but problematic"—and while this is correct for now, Campbell will hope to at least get the chance to show he can contribute to the Gunners' season.

For Campbell, as with so many international stars at the World Cup, the key now must be to capture the drive and determination being shown with the national team and put that into regular application in league play—be that in England, Greece or beyond.

Costa Rica's World Cup story continues, with Campbell one of their biggest successes so far. Regardless of whatever else happens in the last eight and beyond, the young forward must now ensure this is only one great chapter in his career and not the highest height he manages to reach.

If his long-term mentality and approach in games matches that which he has shown in Brazil, he should have no worries on that account.



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