Joel Campbell hoping Arsene Wenger has noticed his World Cup form

The Costa Rica striker, contracted to Arsenal, has never actually had a chance to play for the Premier League club, although his quality at the World Cup could change that.

Costa Rica's Joel Campbell scores his side's first goal against Uruguay in their World Cup Group D match on Saturday against Uruguay in Fortaleza, Brazil. Bernat Armangue / AP / June 14, 2014
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Joel Campbell may not have been a household name before the World Cup but if he continues his scoring form in Brazil, he may well emerge from the tournament as one of its unlikely stars.

And should that be the case, Campbell will likely be hoping his current club boss Arsene Wenger is the first to sit up and take notice.

Those unfamiliar with the Costa Rican might be surprised to learn that he is actually contracted to Arsenal, although in the last three years since joining the club as a teenager, he has yet to pull on the red shirt.

Originally it was work permit issues that scuppered his hopes of dazzling English Premier League defences and he was sent out on loan to Lorient in France’s Ligue 1 in his first season before joining Real Betis in Spain’s La Liga for his second.

Yet even though he was finally granted a British work permit last season, Wenger was still not ready to put his trust in Campbell, who spent that season in Greece with Olympiakos.

He did give his Arsenal manager one timely reminder of his talent with a brilliant goal against Arsenal’s perennial rivals Manchester United in the Champions League but his goal and match-winning performance against Uruguay last Saturday will have introduced his precocious abilities to an even wider audience.

“He’s a man who unsettles you, he surprises, changes the tempo, he was uncontainable for the Uruguay defence,” said Costa Rica’s coach Jorge Luis Pinto.

Campbell is not the first attacking starlet to come out of the central American country.

Although his stocky 1.78m frame bears little resemblance to that of his illustrious predecessor star of the Costa Rican team, with his pace and direct running there are shades of Paulo ‘the panther’ Wanchope about Campbell.

Like Campbell, one of Wanchope’s greatest moments in a club shirt was scoring a stunning goal for Derby County after a mazy run and finish at Old Trafford to earn his side an unexpected 3-2 win over Manchester United.

Wanchope also sizzled on the World Cup stage, notably scoring a brace in a 4-2 defeat by Germany in 2006.

Unlike Wanchope, who had already made his name as an unorthodox and unpredictable forward for Derby, West Ham and then Manchester City in the Premier League for a decade before making his mark at the 2006 World Cup, Campbell may use this tournament as his springboard to greater club success.

Usually, though, when players from so-called lesser nations shine at a World Cup, it is in the hope that an important and big-spending European club will invest in their services.

Players like Japan’s Hidetoshi Nakata or Senegal’s El Hadji Diouf used the World Cups in 1998 and 2002 to introduce themselves to Europe’s big boys, the former earning a move to Roma (via Perugia) and the latter joining Liverpool from Lens.

But in Campbell’s case he is already owned by one of Europe’s heavyweights, and now his aim is to convince Wenger to keep him at the Emirates next season.

In his opening performance, he scored the equaliser for Costa Rica and then created the game-clinching third for Marco Urena with a defence-splitting pass.

With games against Italy and England to come, the chances to shine before eager eyes will only multiply.

And the man himself believes there will be more to come – from his team and from himself.

“Right from the start we knew we could win (against Uruguay). We have a very strong mentality and even when we were losing our heads didn’t drop.

“We’ve got two more games and we hope to get good results to see us into the last 16,” Campbell declared.

The longer his side’s participation lasts, the more chances he’ll have to impress Wenger, who is commentating for French television in Brazil.

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