FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) - Joel Campbell hasn’t played a game for Arsenal since he signed with the Premier League club three years ago.
If he keeps performing like this at the World Cup, he might soon get his chance.
The 21-year-old forward led Costa Rica to a stunning 3-1 win over Uruguay on Saturday, playing as the lone striker in a team that started with five defenders and was trailing by a goal midway through the first half.
Campbell, who has been loaned out by Arsenal to teams in France and Spain before settling with Greek champion Olympiakos, was the main threat for the Costa Ricans throughout the match, attempting solo runs and shots from distance before scoring the equalizer in the 54th minute - firing the ball across the goal with his left foot, after it was headed down by Celso Borges through the Uruguayan defense.
Campbell celebrated by tucking the ball under his shirt, and kneeling down to salute his teammates. They went on to add two more, with Campbell occasionally dropping back to let midfielder Christian Bollanos lead the attack.
Oscar Duarte headed in the winner three minutes after Costa Rica’s first goal, while Campbell helped set up the third scored by substitute Marcos Urena with six minutes to go.
Still to face Italy and England, Campbell said Costa Rica intended to keep playing the same way.
“I’m really happy. We can make it to the second round,” he said. “I played my part, but all the players did. … We all did this. The team is the star.”
Campbell has already made 33 appearances for his country and scored 10 goals since making his debut at 18.
And as he waits to play in England, he has already shown the damage he might do there. In February, he helped Olympiakos beat Manchester United 2-0 in the Champions League, curling a left-footed shot from distance for the second superb goal.
In Fortaleza Friday, Costa Rica coach Jorge Louis Pinto described him as the player who could make the difference, as the Central Americans look to keep their upsets going.
“Campbell was very important,” the Colombian manger said. “He’s an excellent striker. He’s fast and he’s talented. He gave us the edge over Uruguay.”