Arsenal’s Joel Campbell leads Costa Rica to World Cup with chip on his shoulder

The 21-year-old on-loan playmaker will aim to change perceptions about his 'immaturity' when he headlines the Costa Rica squad at the 2014 World Cup.
Joel Campbell shown during a World Cup qualifier against Mexico on October 15, 2013. Moises Castillo / AP
Joel Campbell shown during a World Cup qualifier against Mexico on October 15, 2013. Moises Castillo / AP

Costa Rica striker Joel Campbell heads to the World Cup with a point to prove to Arsenal and a battered reputation to restore.

The exciting 21-year-old winger has yet to make his debut for Arsene Wenger’s English Premier League giants since moving from Saprissa in 2011 and has been loaned out to Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiakos.

But his travels around Europe have not kept him out of the headlines with his immaturity on the pitch often overshadowing his confidence on the ball.

Campbell was condemned as “pathetic” and “cynical” last year when he took a cheap dive in a World Cup qualifier against the United States.

American defender Matt Besler had accidentally brushed by him but Campbell hit the deck, writhing in mock agony before taking a cheeky peek to make sure the referee was watching before resuming his histrionics.

Fifa reprimanded him for his actions.

The incident took the gloss off Campbell’s individual skills after he hit a fine goal in the 3-1 win which helped his side take second place in the final round of qualifying for Brazil behind the United States.

He has nine goals in 31 internationals and Costa Rica will need his eye for goal and a cool head in the finals where his team have been drawn in Group D with former champions England, Italy and Uruguay.

Manchester United got a glimpse of what Campbell can offer in this season’s Champions League when he scored with a wonder strike in Olympiakos’s 2-0 win in the first leg of their last-16 clash.

Campbell picked up the ball on the right, nutmegged a befuddled Michael Carrick, and arced a 25-yard shot into the bottom-left corner with his left foot.

It was the kind of goal which had Wenger insisting that Campbell, whose move to London was undermined by his inability to secure a work permit three years ago, will be at the Emirates next season.

“He looks like he has adapted a bit better to the physical side of the European game,” said Wenger of a player who first caught his eye when he top-scored with six goals at the 2011 Concacaf Under-20 championship.

“We always knew that he had the talent to create something special. He did rely a bit too much on that.

“But he’s now been out with three different clubs; he was with Lorient, Real Betis and now Olympiakos. He has learned the toughness of the European leagues.”

But Campbell is also attracting other suitors with Pepe Mel, who coached him at Real Betis in the 2012/2013 season, just one admirer.

“Joel Campbell was a player with me at Betis, a very good player. He could play here if I stay here,” said the Spaniard before he left West Bromwich Albion this week.

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Published: May 20, 2014 04:00 AM


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