To be sure, the party crashers from Costa Rica who have elbowed and kneed their way into the World Cup's elite eight are like third-party candidates in elections. Their chance of winning it all ranges between slim and none.
But the Ricans' opponents in the qualifying sextet known as CONCACAF can vouch for their talent. The little Central American nation placed second to the U.S. as a contentious rivalry bloomed between the sides over a bizarre home-and-home series.
The first meeting unfolded in a late March snowstorm in Colorado that made the field lines invisible and severely limited the players' footing and vision. Costa Rica's pleas for a postponement were rejected by Team USA, which won 1-0.
FIFA turned down an appeal to replay the game, which Costa coach Jorge Luis Pinto had termed "an embarrassment to football."
Predictably, Costa Rica made the return match as uncomfortable as possible for the U.S.
The visitors were denied the usual courtesy of parading through a private terminal to customs upon landing and had to stroll through public areas, where they were jeered. The bus was pelted with eggs, and more inhospitable chanters awaited the U.S. at the hotel.
The assigned practice site was on a dairy factory's field, and Team USA had to scrounge up its own soccer balls. Normally, the host side provides them.
Final score: Costa Rica, 3-1. Too bad the soccer gods did not match them up in Brazil.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun