Northern Ireland finished their end-of-season Central American tour with a 3-0 loss to World Cup-bound Costa Rica in a game where Arsenal’s Joel Campbell shone.
Only Germany and Croatia had previously beaten Michael O’Neill’s men by more than one goal since November 2014, but Los Ticos scored twice from Campbell’s corners – through Johan Venegas and Francisco Calvo – with the striker registering himself in-between.
O’Neill again took the opportunity to look at some of his younger players and will hope the 10-day trip, which included a 0-0 draw with Panama, will be beneficial for the forthcoming Nations League campaign.
Tweet of the match
Star man – Joel Campbell
He may be Arsenal’s forgotten man but Joel Campbell is limbering up to make another major impression on the international stage. Campbell was in imperious form against his flat-footed Northern Ireland opponents, setting up two of his team’s goals through a pair of inch-perfect corners, and firing a goal of his own seconds into the second half to ensure Costa Rica head off to the World Cup in style.
End of an era
From a Northern Ireland point of view their loss in Costa Rica will not linger in the memory but it may become noteable as the last game of international stalwart Aaron Hughes. The 38-year-old won his 112th cap in the heat of San Jose, just seven short of Pat Jennings’ record. Coach Michael O’Neill hopes Hughes will delay any decision on retirement but it could have been the last time the defender appeared in a green shirt.
Work to do
When Michael O’Neill signed a new four-year contract extension in February he will have been under no illusions about the size of his task ahead. While the memories of Northern Ireland’s European odyssey still linger, the defeat to Costa Rica will have served as a timely reminder of the major overhaul required by O’Neill before the new UEFA Nations League kicks off in September.
Northern Ireland: Trevor Carson 7/10, Lee Hodson 6, Aaron Hughes 6, Gareth McAuley 6, Craig Cathcart 5, Stuart Dallas 6, Corry Evans 6, Jonny Evans 6, Paddy McNair 6, Liam Boyce 6, Josh Magennis 5. Subs: Shay McCartan (on for Boyce, 38) 6, Ryan McLaughlin (for Magennis, 60) 6, Conor McLaughlin (for Hodson, 60) 6, Conor Hazard (for Carson, 74) 6, Luke McCullough (for Cathcart, 75) 6, Jordan Thompson (for Corry Evans, 85) 6.
Who’s up next?
England v Costa Rica, friendly, June 7 2018
Northern Ireland v Bosnia, UEFA Nations League, Sep 8 2018
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