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Costa Rica’s emergence at the World Cup reveals the country’s remarkable story: It’s smaller than Nova Scotia, but is the world’s happiest place.

This was one of the most exciting World Cup tournaments in memory, but who could have imagined that tiny Costa Rica would emerge as the Cinderella team of 2014? It places a spotlight on a remarkable Latin American story that often gets lost in the headlines.

According to the latest global measure of how countries “deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them,” Costa Rica ranks No. 1 as the “happiest and greenest” country in the world. (And that was before the World Cup.) Canada, in contrast, ranks No. 65.

Costa Rica is smaller in size than Nova Scotia and has only 4.5 million people, but it is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. The global index by the respected British think-tank the New Economics Foundation reports that Costa Ricans have the highest life satisfaction in the world and live longer than Americans. They are on track to be the first “carbon neutral” country in the world by 2021.

The two words most spoken in Costa Rica are “pura vida,” which is literally translated from the Spanish as “pure life,” but conversationally means something like “life is good” or “everything’s cool.”

Asked about his team’s success, goalkeeper Navas had a simple reply: “We left our fear at home. We are not afraid of anyone.”

 Costa Rica, its World Cup has already been a triumph. Pura vida.

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