Depending on who you root for, Costa Rica can bring either tears of joy or brutal nightmares. When it comes to Gold Cup 2017, they want to deliver both as they continue to chase the ever-elusive continental title.
CONCACAF Gold Cup 2017 Preview: Costa Rica
Introduction to the Article
The crew from Soccer 2 the MAX, Rachael McKriger, Erik Watkins and Sean Garmer each took a group and have done previews for each squad ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2017 tournament. They give a little about of information on their history in the tournament. Their recent form, the manager and the squad. After that, they give a Player to Watch, and discuss what could happen. Finally, they give their prediction on the team’s final place in the tournament. Hopefully, you enjoy our team preview articles.
Gold Cup History
Costa Rica has only missed one Gold Cup, and that was in 1996. The previous year, they lost to El Salvador in the third-place match of the UNCAF Nations Cup. Their best finish came in 2002, as runners-up. That year, Costa Rica won their group. Then, they beat Haiti and South Korea en route to the final. The United States did what no one else could that tournament, register a clean sheet against Costa Rica, winning the final 2-0.
In 2015, Costa Rica extended their streak by reaching the quarterfinals for the ninth straight tournament. However, they lost their lone knockout match at the death. Andrés Guardado converted a penalty in the final minute of stoppage time, in extra time for Mexico, the eventual Gold Cup winners.
Gold Cup 2017 Roster
Goalkeepers – 1 Lionel Moreira, 18 Patrick Pemberton, 23 Dany Carvajal
Defenders – 2 Johnny Acosta, 3 Giancarlo González, 4 Michael Umaña, 5 Kenner Gutiérrez, 6 José Salvatierra, 8 Bryan Oveido, 15 Francisco Calvo, 16 Cristian Gamboa, 22 Juan Pablo Vargas
Midfielders – 10 Bryan Ruiz, 12 Joel Campbell, 13 Rodney Wallace, 14 Randall Azofeifa, 17 Yeltsin Tejeda, 19 Ulises Segura, 20 David Guzmán
Forwards – 7 David Ramírez, 9 Ariel Rodríguez, 11 Johan Venegas, 21 Marco Ureña
Since the start of World Cup 2018 qualifying way back in November 2015, Costa Rica is a rather impressive 13W-7D-4L. This includes a 10-match unbeaten run (7W-3D) from the end of the Copa America Centenario until the last match of the Copa Centroamericana where they lost to Panama and finished fourth in that tournament. This run also includes a 3W-2D-1L run in the Hexagonal, good enough for second place currently. However, since that unbeaten run, they’ve slowed down a bit and are 1W-2D-1L in the last set of four World Cup qualifiers. The first, a loss to Mexico. Draws against group mates Honduras. a 0-0 draw against Panama. Finally, a win against Trinidad & Tobago on June 13.
The Manager: Oscar Ramirez
Óscar Ramírez has known nothing but Costa Rican football throughout his entire career. Throughout 17 years of playing for a few clubs, El Machillo played for Costa Rica’s two biggest clubs, Alajuelense and Saprissa, among other teams. In total, he finished with seven league titles and two CONCACAF Champions Cups (1986 with Alajuelense, 1995 with Saprissa).
During his career for Los Ticos, Ramírez scored six goals in 75 caps. He played in the 1990 World Cup, the inaugural Gold Cup, the 1991 and 1997 UNCAF Nations Cups, and the Copa América in 1997.
Ramírez’ success as a player is only equaled by his success as a manager. He won five more league titles with Alajuelense and compiling a record of 15W-7D-6L since replacing Paolo Wanchope, as manager in August 2015.
Player to Watch
Bryan Ruiz is your prototypical #10. The Captain is playing well up front and either creating chances for the forwards, or more often scoring goals himself. Ruiz doesn’t mind scoring, as he has 23 goals in 99 caps for Los Ticos. But, as one of five players on the roster age 31 and older, how much does he have left in the tank? Could this be his penultimate, or even last Gold Cup run?
Getting Through the Group
This won’t be a typical 5-4-1 thanks to Ruiz in the central midfield. However, five at the back is daunting when attempting to maintain a shape. Los Ticos won’t have a lot of room for error against Honduras, but if they survive, Canada and French Guiana will be testing grounds leading up to the quarterfinals.
The road for Los Ticos gets easier as the tournament progresses. While seven points at least is expected from the group stage, Costa Rica believes that nine is the ideal. This allows them to win the group outright and create more momentum going into the knockout stage. From there, anything can happen.
Like Honduras, Costa Rica is in good position for making the quarterfinals. From there, a likely match against Panama could be draining, but winnable. However, a looming semifinal against possibly the United States looms big. For me, that’s where the run towards a second-ever final falls short.
Erik’s Prediction: Win Group A, Lose in Semi-Finals.
Sean’s Prediction: Win Group A, Lose in Semi-Finals. Rachael’s Prediction:Win Group A, Lose in Semi-Finals.
PLAYER TO WATCH