A streaking Costa Rica side can put themselves in a stronger position to qualify for World Cup 2022 when they travel to Estadio Cuscatlan to battle El Salvador on Sunday.
La Selecta are no longer in contention to make the finals following a 1-1 draw against Jamaica on Thursday, while Los Ticos hung on to defeat Canada 1-0, as they sit three points back of a guaranteed place in Qatar.
Coming into the final window of qualifying, the Salvadorans knew that sneaking into a top-four position would be a stretch, and unfortunately for Hugo Perez and his side, they failed to take care of business against The Reggae Boyz.
When this group look back and evaluate their play in the Octagon, it will be disappointing knowing that they let a number of early leads slip away, squandering seven points from winning positions, which could have kept them in the hunt for a place in the World Cup.
Their results have been mixed, but perhaps the encouraging sign is that these players have shown that they can compete with teams in this region, losing three matches in this qualifying round by a single goal and collecting three clean sheets in their first four games.
As they continue to grow this program, another positive step forward would be for them to find a way past Los Ticos this weekend, a side that they have not been able to beat since a 1-0 triumph in a World Cup qualifier for the 2010 finals.
Generating consistent offence will be a point of emphasis for this group, having scored a goal or fewer in all but one of their previous 17 matches played across all competitions.
Defending may still be one of their strong suits, but they tend to drop rather deep into their own end of the field when leading, which invites a lot of pressure into their penalty area, and opposing sides have eventually been able to find those open spaces to punish them.
Whatever Luis Fernando Suarez said to his group midway into this qualifying campaign has resonated in a big way, as the Costa Ricans are one of the hottest teams in CONCACAF at the moment.
Los Ticos capitalised on an opportunity late in the opening half to take a 1-0 lead against Canada, and some desperate defending combined with a little luck enabled them to maintain that narrow advantage.
If you had only seen the second half of that encounter, it might have been tough to notice that the Costa Ricans did have a man advantage when Mark-Anthony Kaye was dismissed in the 34th minute, although the Central Americans sustained relentless Canadian pressure in half number two.
From a side that looked dead and buried in its first seven games in the Octagon, their fate for World Cup survival is now in their hands, as they lead Panama by a single point for a berth in the inter-confederation playoffs.
They come into this encounter unbeaten in five successive fixtures, conceding only once to the Salvadorans in their last three encounters against them.
La Tricolor may not play as aggressively as we have seen in previous years, however they do show a ton of patience to pick the right moments to counter, while doing a good job defending in their own third of the field.
El Salvador World Cup Qualifying – North Central America form:
El Salvador form (all competitions):
Costa Rica World Cup Qualifying – North Central America form:
We say: El Salvador 0-1 Costa Rica
For these defensive-minded sides to put up three goals between them in their previous encounter was a rarity, as they both tend to play rather cagey without taking too many risks.
With that being said, momentum is on the side of the Costa Ricans, who look determined to get back to the World Cup, and we expect that desperation, along with the goalkeeping of Keylor Navas, to earn them three points in this match.