Now, surely, Joel Campbell must be piquing Arsene Wenger’s interest

After scoring in the Champions League and orchestrating an all-time World Cup shock, writes Gary Meenaghan, Costa Rica's Joel Campbell has announced his arrival to world football.
Joel Campbell celebrates after his goal against Uruguay on Saturday at the 2014 World Cup for Costa Rica. Bernat Armangue / AP / June 14, 2014
Joel Campbell celebrates after his goal against Uruguay on Saturday at the 2014 World Cup for Costa Rica. Bernat Armangue / AP / June 14, 2014

FORTALEZA // Even before Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell had calmly fired home his country’s equaliser against Uruguay and put into motion the biggest shock yet of this World Cup, he had shown himself to be a player worthy of the hype. He has now scored in the Champions League and the World Cup, yet never played a single minute for the club that he is registered to.

Arsene Wenger signed him for Arsenal in 2011, but a combination of visa issues and lack of immediate opportunities meant he was dispatched on loan, first to Lorient in France, then for season-long spells at Real Betis and Olympiakos. Whether he will finally get a chance to leave his mark on the Premier League will be the topic of much discussion in the coming days.

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If Saturday’s display is indicative of his desire to succeed, however, that chance will arrive sooner rather than later. On his World Cup debut and against the semi-finalists of 2010, Campbell caught the eye by providing a first-half of energy and a second-half of efficacy.

Costa Rica face Italy next and Campbell, deployed as a lone striker, will again likely have little service. As he showed in Fortaleza though, with his raw pace and quick feet, he has the ability to create opportunities for himself and to strike fear into the Italian defence. As Italy struggled to contain Raheem Sterling in Manaus, Campbell can do similar – and with a vicious shot to boot.

A prime example of his eye for goal arrived long before his equaliser. In the 27th minute against Uruguay and with his team having gone behind, he picked up the ball, drove forward with purpose and unleashed a thunderous strike from all of 30 yards. It whistled past the post, but was so close several fans at the other end of the stadium began to celebrate.

Little had been made of Los Ticos, considered only an afterthought in a group containing three previous World Cup-winning teams. Instead, Campbell and his team have blown the group wide open. If he can maintain the level of performance and energy he showed last night, Italy will have to be on guard. And England too.

Finally, three years after joining Arsenal, Joel Campbell has an opportunity to make a name for himself in the country his parent club are based.

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Published: June 15, 2014 04:00 AM


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