Costa Rica is no longer just a sideways glance on the American soccer scene after the big role they played in the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, surprising the world by reaching the quarter-finals.
On Saturday, when they make their Copa America 2016 debut, which gets underway on Friday in the United States, Costa Rica’s most famous group of players in history will make their Group A opponents – Colombia, the United States and Paraguay – take extra care.
The team’s main strength lies with the group’s continuity which is full of talent and has now had several years accumulating experience in the best leagues in European soccer.
At the head of this group, coached by Costa Rican Oscar Ramirez, is captain and Sporting’s (Portugal) midfielder, Bryan Ruiz, who has now scored over 100 goals in European leagues and is a key player in the middle of the field and upfront.
Ruiz now has to take on the responsibility of being the team’s leader after Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas pulled out of the international tournament only a few days ago due to a recurring Achilles tendon problem.
Navas recently helped his Spanish side win the European Champions League and is without a doubt the Central American country’s biggest soccer star. He will be sorely missed in the continental tournament which will integrate teams from Concacaf (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) and Conmebol (South American Football Confederation) for the first time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the world’s oldest international continental soccer competition.
At first, the news of Navas withdrawal from the team caused shock but then came a wave of mistrust in many Costa Rican fans who doubted his injury and considered it merely an “excuse” for the goalkeeper to continue attending to his affairs in Spain.
During the past few days, Spanish media have discussed the possibility of the goalkeeper being signed to Manchester United and they also mentioned an alleged offer from Manchester City’s coach, Joseph Guardiola, so it looks like the Costa Rican may be changing teams over the summer.
However, the Costa Rican Football Federation quashed the rumors, along with their medical committee, by confirming the seriousness of the injury and the need for Navas to receive an operation in the coming days to recover.
Navas’ place will now be taken by goalkeepers Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense, Costa Rica), Leonel Moreira (Herediano, Costa Rica) and Danny Carvajal (Deportivo Saprissa, Costa Rica).
Pemberton will probably be the coach’s favorite for the starting 11 as he is an old friend of Ramirez and he was substitute for Navas during Brazil 2014.
However, Moreira could also be favored as he is fresh from a great season with his team becoming Costa Rica’s champions and he was the main goalkeeper during Copa America 2011 which took place in Argentina.
With their main star gone, the Costa Rican side will kick-off their Copa America 2016 campaign against Paraguay on Saturday at the Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
Forecasts on Costa Rica’s performance in the tournament are still reserved as the level of Group A teams are not seen to be leagues apart therefore, any team could go through to the next round.
However, their good performance at Brazil 2014 continues to be Costa Rica’s best cover letter which is keeping alive their fans’ hopes of Copa America glory.