New Zealand World Cup Odds: Costa Rica Favourites To Qualify For Qatar 2022

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New Zealand World Cup Odds: Costa Rica Favourites To Qualify For Qatar 2022
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New Zealand will battle for a place at the World Cup when they face Costa Rica in a winner-takes-all playoff clash this week, with kick-off scheduled for 6am NZ time on Wednesday.

sports betting nz sites are predicting a tough game for the All-Whites, with New Zealand 4/1 to win in normal time and 2/1 to qualify by any means, including in extra-time (20/1) or on penalties (9/1).

Those odds come courtesy of Bet365, who make Costa Rica the clear favourites at 3/4 to get the job done in 90 minutes and 4/11 to qualify on the night via any method.

Should New Zealand make it to Qatar, they will be one of the biggest underdogs at the tournament, with Betway currently offering odds of 1500/1 in their World Cup 2022 outright betting odds.

New Zealand thrashed the Solomon Islands 5-0 on March 30 to seal victory in the Oceania qualifying tournament, but they haven't played a competitive game since.

They now face a showdown with Los Ticos, who finished fourth in the CONCACAF qualifying group, with the game taking place at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar. It is a one-legged clash, so the team that prevails will book a place at the 32-team tournament.

New Zealand’s Qualifying Campaign So Far

The Oceania Football Confederation decided to move this year’s World Cup qualifying tournament to Qatar following a Covid-19 outbreak in the region.

Eight of the region’s 11 teams ultimately headed to the Middle Eastern nation to compete after American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga withdrew. Vanuatu and Cook Islands pulled out after the tournament had started due to players testing positive for Covid-19.

New Zealand went into Group B, along with Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Caledonia. The All-Whites finished top of the group with a 100% record, improving their chances of qualification according to football betting sites.

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A late strike from Wellington Phoenix star Ben Waine handed them a 1-0 victory over Papua New Guinea in their opener. Newcastle striker Chris Wood banged in a brace during a 4-0 win against Fiji, and he scored two more during a 7-1 thumping of New Caledonia.

That teed up a semi-final showdown with Tahiti, which New Zealand won 1-0 thanks to an opportunistic strike from Empoli left-back Liberato Cacace.

In the final, Danny Hay’s men faced the Solomon Islands, who had already beaten Tahiti and Papua New Guinea. There was a vast gulf in class and New Zealand dominated the game, winning 5-0. Most of the goals came from set pieces, with Bill Tuiloma scoring twice and Wood, Joe Bell and Matt Garbett completing the rout.

Costa Rica Await in Crunch Playoff Game

New Zealand were far too good for their regional rivals, but they will now face a far sterner test of their mettle against in-form Costa Rica.

Los Ticos were unlucky not to secure automatic qualification for the World Cup. They finished fourth in the CONCACAF Group, but they were level on points with a talented USA team. An inferior goal difference ultimately caused them to head into the intercontinental playoffs instead.

At the halfway point of the qualifying group, Costa Rica looked dead and buried. They picked up just one win in seven games, and costly defeats to the USA, Mexico and Canada had left their World Cup dreams in tatters.

However, they rallied in impressive fashion. Costa Rica picked up six wins and a draw from their final seven games, and they ultimately finished four points clear of fifth-placed Panama.

As such, they are currently surging with momentum. They won back-to-back games against Honduras and Panama before holding Mexico to a 0-0 draw in Mexico City on January 30.

Since then, they have rattled off four consecutive wins against Jamaica, Canada, El Salvador and the USA. In that final game, they kept Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah quiet, and they looked constantly menacing on the counter-attack.

They have since played two CONCACAF Nations League games, losing 2-0 to Panama earlier this month before bouncing back with a 2-0 win of their own over Martinique.

How Good Are Costa Rica?

Keylor Navas

Costa Rica are now up to 31st in the FIFA world rankings, nestled in between Nigeria and Egypt. That leaves them ahead of talented teams such as the Czech Republic and Austria.

It also means they are 70 places ahead of New Zealand, who currently occupy 101st place, sandwiched between Palestine and Madagascar.

Costa Rica’s squad arguably peaked in 2014, when they went all the way to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Many veterans of that campaign are still instrumental in the team, including 36-year-old captain and playmaker Bryan Ruiz, Monterrey forward Joel Campbell, midfielder Celso Borge and PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Costa Rica have a much older and more experienced team than New Zealand. They lack pace and energy, but they are well-versed in keeping things tight at the back, defending doggedly and grinding out low-scoring wins courtesy of well-timed breakaway goals.

That was evident during their qualifying campaign, when they scored just 13 goals in 14 games, but conceded a mere eight times. They have let in only three goals in their last eight matches, despite facing talented forwards such as Pulisic, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, Michail Antonio, Hirving Lozano, Jesús Corona and Rogelio Funes Mori.

Manager Luis Fernando Suárez will have a clear game plan against New Zealand. Costa Rica typically play with a back five, and the full-backs do not take many risks.

There is an organized four-man midfield, leaving Campbell to feed on scraps up front. The idea is to control the game and edge a narrow victory – like Atlético Madrid under Diego Simeone.

New Zealand will need to battle for every ball, defend resolutely and play to their strengths at set pieces. If they are to win the game, it is likely to be via a thumping header from Wood.

Under 2.5 goals will be the way to go from a betting perspective. New Zealand are the clear underdogs, but giving the All-Whites a (+1) Asian handicap could be tempting, as this is likely to be a tense, hard-fought encounter.

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Martin Green

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