Keylor Navas: The down-to-earth lynchpin holding Costa Rica’s World Cup hopes in his hands

The goalkeeper has had limited playing time at PSG this season but is undisputed No 1 for Los Ticos

Rohith Nair
Wednesday 23 November 2022 05:56 GMT
Keylor Navas is the veteran presence in the Costa Rica team
Keylor Navas is the veteran presence in the Costa Rica team (Getty Images)

Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas’s preparations for the World Cup have been far from ideal without any appearances so far for Paris St Germain this season but the national side’s captain is the first name on coach Luis Fernando Suarez’s teamsheet.

Navas has fallen down the pecking order at PSG after the arrival of Gianluigi Donnarumma while injury kept him out of the team when he was expected to take over from the Italy No 1 in the Champions League.

At 35, Navas will be playing at his last World Cup and, even though he did not make the squad for their international friendlies in September, Suarez made it clear that the shot-stopper who helped guide them to Qatar was undroppable.

“The least I have to be testing is Keylor Navas,” Suarez said. “I take this (his absence for friendlies) as a possibility to see goalkeepers for the future, for that reason he is not there.”

Navas’ experience was key to Costa Rica’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign as the veteran commanded his box and kept seven clean sheets in 13 appearances as they conceded only eight times - the joint second-best record after Canada.

He also made numerous saves in the inter-confederation playoff against New Zealand in a nervy 1-0 win to seal their spot for Qatar, with a heavily-criticised Suarez vindicated for sticking with Costa Rica’s old warhorse.

This will be Navas’ third World Cup but it was in 2014 when he made a name for himself when Los Ticos overcame heavy odds and conceded only one goal to top a heavyweight group which included Uruguay, Italy and England.

Navas once said he had decided he would be a keeper aged five and he did not lack the determination to get to the top, winning LaLiga’s best goalkeeper award with Levante.

His 2014 World Cup campaign was just the stamp of approval that Real Madrid needed to trigger his Levante release clause and Navas moved to the Spanish capital to eventually replace a keeper many considered irreplaceable - Iker Casillas.

Twelve trophies followed, including three consecutive Champions League titles and four Club World Cups. But despite being the most successful player in Costa Rica’s squad, Navas remains a down-to-earth person and a leader to look up to.

“There are no airs and graces about him. He never goes off and does his own thing or does things differently to the rest of the team. No, he’s focused,” Suarez said.

“People think he’s up there on top of Olympus but no, he’s in the same place everyone else is. He’s the same as everyone else... If he has to be on the same level as someone, he is. And that someone is his teammates.”

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