FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Costa Rica

I’m fully caught up in World Cup Panini sticker mode. If I could be arsed tweeting it out, I’d have embedded that GIF of Fry from Futurama shouting “take my money” and tagged @OfficialPanini. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve even resorted to going on a sticker swapping website to try and complete the book.

So, what better way to celebrate the World Cup than by examining if Panini (in their infinite wisdom) have gotten the Costa Rican squad correct:

Almost Perfect

Nearly.

There are only 18 named players in each squad page in the album so we’re looking for five names missing at least from the 23 man squad and Panini are pretty much nailed on for Costa Rica. All the usual big names are there – Ruiz, Campbell, Navas, Gonzalez, Oviedo, Gamboa etc. – and the regular squad players – Urena, Matarrita, Waston, Calvo etc. – also are included. So, what have Panini missed out on?

Well, for starters, the two reserve goalkeepers Leonel Moreira and Patrick Pemberton (who, according to my P45 brethren Dean Mannion, sounds like a mild-mannered solicitor) are obvious omissions due to the fact they’re not getting a sniff with Navas around. Also obviously missing is young Ian Smith (not me before you ask) who only made his international bow in March. Finally, in the obvious pile, Daniel Colindres of Saprissa is very much a backup option so was probably one of the least certain of his place at the World Cup.

That leaves a couple of major omissions and one actual error in the album. Firstly, Yeltsin Tejeda of Lausanne in Switzerland isn’t in the album at all despite becoming one of the key men in Costa Rica’s midfield. Secondly, Oscar Duarte – one of the key defenders – isn’t in the book either which is incredibly baffling.

That means that his place has been taken by Michael Umana. That name may be unfamiliar but the 35-year-old has 102 caps for his country and played a large part in the quarter-final run in 2014. He even missed in the shootout against the Dutch. He was curiously added despite currently playing sporadically for Pars Jonoubi in Iran.

So, that gives Panini a roughly 95% success rate calling the squad. But what about the other teams in comparison? Were they so easy to call?

What About The Rest?

We’ll start with who I assume the large demographic reading this will be backing: England. Panini did not fare as well, making the rather odd call to put Joe Hart into the album. Did you not see him at West Ham? Anyway, there’s no place for Maguire, Young, Delph, Alexander-Arnold, Butland, Pope, Trippier, Loftus-Cheek or Danny Welbeck but plenty room for Adam ‘five minutes until his next injury’ Lallana and Ryan Bertrand. I’ll forgive them Ox because he’d have been in Russia but for injury.

What about the Germans I hear you cry? Well, Panini did do what Joachim Low didn’t and included Leroy Sane, Mario Gotze and Emre Can in the squad for the album. Still, they did correctly find space for Julian Brandt and Sebastian Rudy so their finger is somewhat on the pulse.

Panini was only out by two on the Brazilians too with Dani Alves succumbing to injury and Fenerbahce’s Giuliano succumbing to the fact that he has the likes of Neymar, Jesus, Paulinho, Coutinho, Firmino etc. ahead of him.

The Worst

I couldn’t quite believe this but it appears that Panini needs to up their research game in South Korea because they got an incredible eight players wrong in their album. EIGHT! From 18! I dare not write them down but just know that I thought nothing would beat France and the six wrong names included in their part of the album.

Perfect Scores

There were five perfect scores and I get the feeling a few of them won’t be surprises. Panama were the obvious choice for a full house because, from what I’ve read, this is going to be their national squad for the next decade.

They are joined by Peru (who have a very distinct core), Mexico, Sweden and Senegal in Panini’s perfect selection club for this year’s tournament which may say more about a dearth of talent in some of those nations than anything else.

Overall

Overall, Panini has got around 85% of the players in the album correct which is pretty good going. For the teams that scored low, that highlights a wealth of talent (or options in some cases) or potential generational changes.

But for sides that scored high in this look, like Costa Rica, it can be looked at one of two ways. First, they have a settled squad who have had time to build up an understanding and a brotherhood that can help overcome any talent deficiency they may have in a tournament setting.

Conversely, it can also mean that there is no new talent deemed good enough to replace the ageing legs as is the case with Costa Rica.

No matter what though, I doff my cap to Panini for being right with their sticker selections so frequently.

Now where’s that Fry GIF…