Gold Cup Team Preview: Costa Rica / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Group Stage Schedule
DateTime (ET)CityVenueHomeAway
08-Jul 8:00PM Carson Stub Hub Center CRC JAM
11-Jul 9:00PM Houston BBVA Compass Stadium CRC SLV
14-Jul 8:30PM Toronto BMO Field CAN CRC

I know the popular thought going into this tournament is that the suave and cool pick to win everything is Costa Rica. They have a lot of very talented individuals throughout their roster rooted in various European leagues. It's basically everyone's best case scenario of how the United States roster would be constructed. A little bit of Serie A and a little bit of Premier League, a guy from La Liga. It's a recipe for either Jurgen Klinsmann's best XI or his family's bakery for cinnamon rolls. One or the other.

The thing about the roster is regardless of where the players are reporting from it hasn't directly influenced the recent results. Their current state is that they've done just enough to stay where they were coming out of the World Cup. Overall they've not been good, not necessarily bad, but not good. The last six months has seen them suffer draws to Paraguay and Mexico, losses to Panama, Colombia and Spain. They haven't actually won since 14 October last year against South Korea.

There is a fair argument to be had about whether their ranking is an accurate portrayal of how good they are.

How did they get here?
Costa Rica qualified through the Central American zone winning the 2014 Copa Centroamericana.

Group B
CountryAvg AgeAvg CapsELOrankFIFArank
Costa Rica 26.7 32 16 14
Canada 26.3 23.5 78 109
Jamaica 26.6 21.6 80 65
El Salvador 24.9 17.7 88 89

What Group are they in?
They are in Group B; a long with the El Salvador, Jamaica and Canada. The winner of which would play Group A runner-up, the runner-up would play Group C runner-up and third place would be weighted against other third place teams for the chance to play the Group A or Group C winner.

How are they are ranked?
Costa Rica is pretty much the same club that we saw back at the World Cup. I don't want to say that they're 1818 ELO is inflated but... it kind of is. Coming out of the World Cup they sat with an 1825 ELO. Right now, they sit with an 1818 ELO a mere minus seven point difference. If you take it back to June in a pre-World Cup warm up match against Ireland you have them sitting at 1693. That's a full 132 points! 

Not only that, but there is a change of being ranked 33rd going into the World Cup and coming out ranked 15th. I don't' know who was the biggest gainer in ELO position for the World Cup but I'll venture a guess that Costa Rica likely was in the top-5 and probably near the top gainer. Since that run they've done nothing negative really to lose that position. 

They fell eight points and two ranks after they're defeat to Panama in the 2014 Copa Centroamericana to qualify for the Gold Cup, but besides that it's been a relatively easy schedule. They drew Mexico last week in a friendly that really, they should have won. But with ELO you don't lose any points from games in which you were up two nothing and gave away the game. You get points for how you ended the game.

Who is their Head Coach?
Paulo Wanchope
, a former Costa Rican international himself, took the reigns of Los Ticos after the departure of the CONCACAF's 2014 Coach of the Year, Jorge Luis Pinto (who is now coaching Honduras), following a very successful World Cup run. You may remember Paulo from his time with Derby County, West Ham or Manchester City during the late 90 - 2000's scoring 62 of his 102 career goals. While Wanchope has played assistant the last four years at Costa Rica it's his turn to sink or swim.

Esteban Alvarado GK AZ Netherlands 26 5
Dany Carvajal GK Saprissa Costa Rica 26 0
Patrick Pemberton GK Alajuelense Costa Rica 33 24
Keyner Brown D Herediano Costa Rica 23 2
Francisco Calvo D Santos de Guápiles Costa Rica 22 5
Junior Diaz D Mainz 05 Germany 31 74
Christian Gamboa D West Bromwich Albion England 25 35
Giancarlo Gonzalez D Palermo Italy 27 42
Roy Miller D New York Red Bulls USA 30 53
Dave Myrie D Herediano Costa Rica 27 19
Michael Umana D Perspolis Iran 32 90
Elias Aguilar M Herediano Costa Rica 23 3
Marvin Angulo M Saprissa Costa Rica 28 2
Celso Borges M Deportivo La Coruña Spain 27 77
Jose Miguel Cubero M Blackpool England 28 44
David Guzman M Saprissa Costa Rica 25 12
Bryan Ruiz M Fulham England 29 76
Deyver Vega M Saprissa Costa Rica 22 4
Johan Venegas M Alajuelense Costa Rica 26 10
Joel Campbell F Arsenal England 22 46
Jonathan McDonald F Alajuelense Costa Rica 27 9
David Ramirez F Évian France 22 6
Alvaro Saborio F Real Salt Lake USA 33 99

Who are the important players that I should know?
Giancarlo González (DEF)-
You may remember the three-four month time period González played for the Columbus Crew. No? Well, he used Columbus to get a bigger opportunity and on the heels of a outstanding World Cup/MLS performance people took note, specifically Palermo of Serie A. Columbus sold him quickly in the summer window and just like that *some catchy swoosh sound effect* he was gone. But the memory of his awesome play lives on.

Celso Borges (MID)- If you're like me, and guessing by you coming to our AMERICAN soccer statistics website (it basically screams niche) you at bare minimum share some shred of enthusiasm. You've read about Celso Borges, how he'd fit in MLS and the need for some team to do it. He's kind of like the soccer hipster's version of Chicharito only in as a play maker from Costa Rica.

Alvaro Saborio (FWD)- The Real Salt Lake striker has a been a pivotal figure for the Costa Rica national team for a number of years and this looks to be his last go around with this tournament. The current active leading goal scorer with 35 goals through 100 caps for his country looks to add a few more over these coming CONCACAF games. It's probably not likely that he catches up with new head coach Paulo Wanchope who is next on the leaderboard and second overall on Costa Rica's all-time scoring sheet, but it should be interesting to see if he can make a late run at the 10 goals difference.

What have they done in the past?
2013: Lost to Honduras 1-0 in quarter-finals, came in ranked 39th in FIFA.
2011: Lost to Honduras 2-4 on penalties in quarter-finals, came in ranked 56th in FIFA.
2009: Lost to Mexico 3-5 on penalties in semi-finals, came in ranked 30th in FIFA.
2007: Lost to Mexico 0-1 in quarter-finals, came in ranked 50th in FIFA.

What do we expect from them this go around?
I think it's reasonable to expect a semi-final appearance with an outside shot at getting to making a finals. The problem I have with them is, I think from the stand point of evaluating the tournament as a whole, they're not necessarily the third best team in the field and I'm not certain they're even the best in their group. Jamaica proved to be a pretty formidable foe over their three games in South America and I wouldn't be shocked to see Costa Rica at least struggle early on with finding opportunities against their opponents creating stress on the shoulders of the defense.

I'd be pretty shocked to not see Costa Rica in a Quarter-Finals but at the same time I kind of feel like there is potential in El Salvador, Jamaica and Canada to make things a bit more difficult than we might expect. I'm not saying they don't get out of group play but I wouldn't put all my eggs in the Costa Rica basket at this point. My call is a group stage appearance, I feel that best fits them.