We are 160 days out from the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the participants are finally set in stone.
Final qualifier matches were do-or-die, and World Cup berths were secured. Costa Rica clinched their spot after beating New Zealand 1-0 on Tuesday, and Australia did the same after beating Peru 1-0 in the sixth round of penalty kicks on Monday.
Costa Rica will play alongside the rest of Group E, including Spain, Germany and Japan, while Australia joins Group D with France, Denmark and Tunisia.
These matches were more than just a game for the Peruvians, Australians, Costa Ricans and New Zealanders. Despite it being two inter-continental playoffs, these battles felt more like the World Cup itself. After all, the primary goal for both clubs was simply to qualify for the opportunity to compete in November.
What happened during Tuesday’s match between Costa Rica and New Zealand?
In the first three minutes Costa Rica experienced a dream start – thanks to a perfect corner assist from 17-year-old Jewison Bennette leading to a strike by Joel Campbell. And already, things got a whole lot harder for the All Whites.
The game intensity started to settle as the first half went on. New Zealand were dominant in shots and possession despite trailing.
New Zealand lost their last two World Cup matches and were looking to avoid a hat-trick of playoff defeats. They entered the second half with confidence until New Zealand’s Kosta Barbarouses drew himself a red card and the All Whites dropped down to 10 players.
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New Zealand put the pressure on Costa Rica goalie Keylor Navas, but time ran out before the All Whites could match the goal Costa Rica scored in the first three minutes.
Ranked 31st in the world and finishing fourth in the CONCACAF qualifying campaign, Costa Rica were the favorites going into today’s match, whereas New Zealand ranked 101 as the top team in the Oceania region.
Having only met once before in 2007, where Costa Rica won 4-0, the two teams were fairly new to one another. But now with the last spot in the World Cup up for grabs, this competition was going to surpass any previous run-ins between the two teams.
What were the qualifying campaigns like for Costa Rica and New Zealand?
Neither side entered today’s match riding all that high. Costa Rica dropped its CONCACAF Nations League opener to Panama 2-0, and New Zealand lost to fellow playoff opponent Peru right before the qualifying final.
Then again, Costa Ricans are considered to be a bit more of the “regulars” to the World Cup scene, qualifying for five FIFA World Cup finals (1990, 2002, 2006, 2014, 2018). After a challenging World Cup qualifying campaign leaving them fourth in the CONCACAF group, the Ticos came back to win seven of their last nine games, largely due to defensive strategy.
New Zealand won first place in Oceania’s part of the World Cup qualifiers, but this wasn’t exactly impressive considering the Kiwis couldn’t score a goal in their last two games - losing to Peru 1-0 and tying against Oman 0-0.
What happened during Monday’s match between Peru and Australia?
This match was definitely more than a physical game. Players had to have mental stamina to get through the pressure of this do-or-die World Cup qualifier.
After two full halves, three minutes of stoppage time, a full 30 minutes of extra time and one round of five penalty kicks, there was still a stalemate. But the sixth round of penalty kicks finally sealed the win for Australia thanks to a goal by Awer Mabil and a save by goalie Andrew Redmayne after Peru’s sixth kick.
The Peruvians were favored from the start, having qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals five times, the last time being in 2018. But Australia showed up to play. The game was head-to-head for a majority of the first half, both team’s defensive lines prohibiting any goal opportunities.
Over the first 45 minutes of play, nerves proved to be high and the teams remained tight. Peru instilled some pressure late into the first half as Australia started to make it closer to the goal, yet still no success for either side.
At the half, nothing was yet decided as to who will be coming back to Qatar for the World Cup in November.
During the second half, Australia’s Martin Boyle had a few close attempts. Peru’s rushes toward goal were completely shut out by goalie Matthew Ryan. Australia, which struggled defensively throughout their qualifying campaign, was not budging.
Peru goalie Pedro Gallese showed up to battle. After three straight beams to goal by Australia, Gallese kept his side of the field clean and clear. After 90 minutes of a stalemate, the inter-continental playoff entered into extra time with still no score.
There was still no score on the board after the first half of stoppage time. At this point, both clubs were just trying to score to avoid the ominous PK shootout component of the competition.
Both Peru and Australia had a taste in their mouth of what it’s like to compete in a World Cup, both having been in the 2018 competition, and that undoubtedly came across in the final minutes of stoppage time and throughout each penalty kick.
What were the qualifying campaigns like for Peru and Australia?
This is the second straight time that Peru’s World Cup qualification potential is determined by an inter-continental playoff, and this year, it was highly favored. The strong South American squad had their hopes in Ricardo Gareca, one of the most favored football managers in Latin America.
A 2-0 loss to Japan set the stage for a difficult qualifying campaign for Australia, which hoped to snag an automatic place in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. However, Australia edged the United Arab Emirates 2-1 on Tuesday to reach the inter-contential playoff.
When is the 2022 FIFA World Cup?
The first match will take place at 5 a.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 20 and the final match will take place at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday, Dec. 18.
How to watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup
If you are in the US, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be on Fox and FS1. Thirty-five matches will be on Fox and 29 matches will be on FS1.
Both channels are available on every major streaming platform.