Our run down of the teams involved in the 2011 Copa America, which kicks off on July 1, continues with a closer look at Costa Rica.
With the Costa Rican senior side suffering a disappointing quarter-final exit from the Gold Cup pressure is building on their Copa América team to restore some pride. Bear in mind that the last minute replacements for Japan have reached the knock-out stages on their two previous trips south of the Panama Canal. Also worth noting is that Costa Rica narrowly missed out to Uruguay over a two-legged play-off for the last available spot at the 2010 World Cup.
Momento de gloria
Costa Rica arrived in Colombia for the 2001 Copa América with the core of a team that would qualify for both the following World Cups. Los Ticos finished top of Group C with two wins and a draw. However, even with Paulo Wanchope’s fifth goal of the tournament giving Costa Rica the lead in their quarter-final they were eventually undone by bogey team Uruguay.
El director técnico
Two late goals conceded against the USA in a crucial 2010 World Cup qualifier spelt the end for René Simões’ tenure in charge of Costa Rica. After the dust had settled la Sele shelled out to bring in Ricardo La Volpe to lead the national team. El Bigotón coached on the biggest stage of all when his Mexican outfit impressed at the 2006 World Cup. The former Argentine goalkeeper will be itching to make amends for los Ticos’ sub-par performance at the Gold Cup when he touches down in his homeland.
With Costa Rica bringing what is in essence an under-23 team to Argentina added responsibility will land at the feet of the thin sprinkling of experience within the squad. La Volpe is expected to hand down the captain’s armband to the squat figure of Randall Brenes. El Chiqui is one of the few member’s of la Sele’s squad to have played outside Costa Rica with a five year stint in Scandinavia under his belt.
When Costa Rica take on Argentina in the concluding match of Group A both goalkeepers on the pitch will belong to Eredivisie outfit AZ Alkmaar. Sergio Romero’s understudy in Holland is the highly rated Costa Rican Esteban Alvarado. The custodian won the Golden Glove award at the 2009 under-20 World Cup on account of his performances between the sticks as Costa Rica finished fourth at the tournament. Alvarado can expect plenty of opportunity to show his worth at the upcoming Copa América.
No player since Bryan Ruiz has managed to capture the imagination back home quite like Joel Campbell is doing at the moment. The teenage beanpole comes to Argentina fresh from playing in the Gold Cup where he rammed home an empathetic left-foot shot to open his account for the senior side. At the conclusion of the Copa América the striker, tipped to be transferred out of Costa Rica sooner rather than later, will be in Colombia to represent his country at the under-20 World Cup.
Aside from Alvarado and Campbell a lot is expected from Cesar Elizondo at the Copa América. The attacker’s development appeared to have stagnated at Costa Rican giants Saprissa but his loan spell at Pérez Zeledón last season sees him flavour of the month once again. If Elizondo can continue to improve his decision making in the final third he could yet fulfill his early promise for both club and country.
Not only is FC Twente’s Bryan Ruiz missing but other European based talents such as Keilor Navas, Celso Borges and Cristian Bolaños will also be conspicuous by their absence.
Rumores de transferencia
Bryan Ruiz to Liverpool, Joel Campbell to Sunderland, Esteban Alvarado to Wigan Athletic
Goalkeeper Leonel Moreira is yet to win a senior cap but that does not stop him from being one of the most well known footballers his country. Moreira’s ability to get his safe hands all over Costa Rica’s finest female models sees him regularly splashed over the front page.
Síguelo en Twitter
@bryanruizcr - Hola en la Sele estamos muy bien, yo estoy muy feliz x q no siento ninguna molestia, ayer entrené fuerte y estoy al 100% y hoy lo haré igual
La opinión experta
We have had our hands tied by CONCACAF and FIFA rulings that ensured our best players went to the Gold Cup. I suppose it’s fair that clubs don’t allow their players to be away with the national team for two months but the result is that we have sent an under-23 team to play the Copa América. I hope our young players can seize the opportunity they have to represent us at such a prestigious tournament. All we can ask is that they show what we know they are capable of. La Volpe is putting his reputation on the line and it will be interesting to see if he can unearth some strong personalities on the pitch. Of course our federation could never turn down the chance to play in the competition. This will be the fourth time we have been to the Copa América and every time we have been invited at the last minute. It’s the first time we have travelled with an under-23 team though and this is going to make it a tough job for us.
Diego Brenes - Costa Rica’s Canal 7
Supporters of la Sele are badly in need of a lift following Costa Rica’s penalty shoot-out exit from the Gold Cup at the hands of Honduras. While the under-20 World Cup in Colombia remains the more likely venue for a rebirth of optimism, at least the Copa América allows La Volpe an instant opportunity to restore his relationship with the fans.
The odds are hugely stacked against Costa Rica and Argentina could well end up posting a cricket score against them in their final Group A match. While the games against Colombia and Bolivia will no doubt be tighter affairs it’s still a real struggle to see Costa Rica avoiding a pointless return to the tropics.
¿Por qué ser fanático?
Over half a century ago the peace loving people of Costa Rica took the decision to abolish their military. The bold step was rubber stamped by president José Figueres Ferrer as the country became the first ever to lay down their weapons through choice. Even now the philosophy of riding waves and not tanks persists from Boca Barranca to Playa Bonita and all along the country’s vast coastline. Much of the funds freed up by foregoing a military presence have been pumped into education initiatives.
¿Un club en League Two?
Down by the seaside we find a tourist resort that rarely threatens any kind of unpleasantness or shocks. Happy just to be there are the sleepy gulls of Torquay United. However, watch out for La Volpe doing his best Basil Fawlty impression, moustache and all, as he tries to contain a certain someone from Barcelona.
Fill your boots with Ron Centenario and get a bellyful of gallo pinto. Don’t worry too much if you lose your footing on the sandy dancefloor while swinging to the merengue. If you can keep it up all night check out the bars of la Rotonda de la Hispanidad.
Paulo Wanchope’s mazy run and finish at Old Trafford remains one the best goals ever witnessed in the Premier League. La Cobra now spends his days as the president/head coach of Costa Rican second division outfit CS Uruguay de Coronado.
* La Selección
Goalkeepers: Esteban Alvarado (AZ Alkmaar, HOL), Danny Carvajal (San Carlos, CRC), Leonel Moreira (Herediano, CRC).
Defenders: Johnny Acosta (Alajuelense, CRC), Francisco Calvo (San Jacinto College, USA), Óscar Duarte (Saprissa, CRC), Kevin Fajardo (Santos, CRC), Jorge Gatgens (Pérez Zeledón, CRC), Pedro Leal (Puntarenas, CRC), José Salvatierra (Alajuelense, CRC)
Midfielders: Heiner Mora and David Guzmán (Saprissa, CRC), Hansell Arauz (Santos, CRC), José Miguel Cubero (Herediano, CRC), Allen Guevara and Luis Miguel Valle (Alajuelense, CRC), Diego Madrigal (Cerro Porteño, PAR).
Forwards: Randall Brenes (Cartaginés, CRC), Jorge Castro, César Elizondo, Josué Martínez and Joel Campbell (Saprissa, CRC).
* La Volpe still has one space in his squad to fill
v Colombia 02/07/2011 15:30 San Salvador de Jujuy
v Bolivia 07/07/2011 19:15 San Salvador de Jujuy
v Argentina 11/07/2011 21:45 Cordoba
Fifa ranking: 56
Odds to win: 250/1
Copa America record: P11 W3 D2 L6 F12 A21
Copa America best: Two-time quarter-finalists
More teams will follow in this daily series. Plus, for more on Copa America 2011, listen to The South American Football Show.