With Costa Rica’s prolific striker Álvaro Saborío ruled out of the World Cup due to injury, Arsenal’s 21-year-old Joel Campbell is set to play an even more crucial role for his side in Brazil.
Hailed as the next big thing in CONCACAF, many believe the pacey and skilful attacker possesses all the attributes to succeed on the international stage. Tico fans certainly hope so, as Campbell will now be relied upon as the main source of goals for Group D’s underdogs, while paired with Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz upfront.
Saborío is not the only influential Costa Rican to be ruled out either, as both Everton’s Bryan Oviedo and winger Rodney Wallace have failed to make it back into contention after serious knee injuries, heaping more pressure on Campbell to deliver this summer.
With 32 caps and nine international goals to his name, he will get the chance to impress against club teammates Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when his unfancied outfit face England in their final group game on June 24, hoping to cause a major upset.
Campbell was signed by Arsenal from hometown side Saprissa in August 2011 for around £1 million, after impressing for Costa Rica at the Under-20 World Cup and 2011 Copa América.
Having only received his work permit last summer, following season-long loan spells with Ligue 1’s FC Lorient and La Liga’s Real Betis, respectively, he spent a third successive campaign abroad in 2013-14 with Olympiacos, after Arsene Wenger decided his promising striker would benefit from further first-team experience.
Playing predominantly on the right wing for the Greek champions, the youngster still managed 11 goals in 43 games across all competitions, including a wonder strike against Manchester United in the Champions League last-16 tie.
With his solid club form, Wenger is openly keen to give Campbell an opportunity to prove himself at the Emirates next season, though that has not stopped other clubs from being linked with a summer move for the Costa Rican, including Newcastle United.
Ahead of what could be a busy transfer window for Arsenal, Campbell could well fill the club’s need for additional firepower upfront, though it remains to be seen whether he could unseat the incumbent Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud or the emerging pair of Yaya Sanogo and Serge Gnabry.
A solid set of performances at the World Cup would certainly go a long way to proving as much, while possibly denting the hopes of Roy Hodgson’s side in the process.