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As part of our World Cup coverage, we have interviewed journalists, correspondents, experts & writers representing each of the 32 countries to give you, the readers, a better understanding of the 32 nations participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Here are the list of interviewees.
For this interview, focusing on Costa Rica, we spoke to Kim Tate. Correspondent for the Telegraph. Follow her on Twitter @KimTateSports
Brian Oviedo would have been the first name on the team-sheet had he not been unfortunate with his injury. How important would the Everton man have been for the Costa Ricans and who is Pinto looking at to replace him?
Very. I spoke with Tim Howard shortly after the injury, and he was complimentary of Oviedo’s work rate and insisted he was a crucial part of their team, especially filling that left back role when Leighton Baines was injured. He’s young, a uniting factor within the squad on and off the pitch, and Costa Rica will miss his versatility in the back, his speed down the wing, and that team-player mentality he offers to his teammates. Luckily for Costa Rica, Jorge Luis Pinto prepares for these situations, and he’s got depth, defensively. Giancarlo Gonzalez , Jhonny Acosta, and Junior Diaz – most likely Diaz – are the most suitable to fill that void Oviedo’s injury left behind.
It is widely expected that Jorge Luis Pinto will attempt to adopt a defensive approach which requires a lot of organisation & concentration. While it is the less risky option, given that they have nothing to lose, do you think Costa Rica should look at playing a more attacking game?
They should, but I don’t think he’s only going to sit back and defend. They were dealt a blow with Alvaro Saborio’s broken foot and now must improvise using Urena and Brenes, who are good but not at the caliber of Saborio. We saw it in Costa Rica’s 3-1 loss to Japan; Urena struggled to make anything of the opportunities he could have capitalized on. Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz will do fine because they are capable forwards and will work well as a team – likely with Campbell deployed on the wings and Ruiz in the center. They play well off each other, but they’ll need help to keep their momentum and not become stifled, as they cannot carry the entire team. There should be a lot of dependence on the midfield to be tight and transition fluidly from attack mode to “all men on deck” when facing attacking threats. Pinto will almost assuredly go with a 5 man back-line: 3 center backs and two on the wings.
Costa Rica haven’t lit up the World Cup in the past with mediocre performances. Is there reason to believe things will be different this time round?
Last time Italy was involved (albeit they were the host nation and not actually in Los Ticos’ group), Costa Rica made it out of the Group (1990). If we’re being superstitious… Kidding. This generation of players looks promising to ruffle some feathers at the very least. They’ve got Paulo Wanchope assisting Pinto, who led this squad through an impressive qualifying campaign finishing second to USA with the least amount of goals conceded (7) and were unbeaten in five games at home. They only came out with three points on the road however, so there are definitely inconsistencies within this team that need to be worked out if they want to make waves in Brazil. I realize CONCACAF teams are not at the caliber as either of Costa Rica’s World Cup opponents (who have 7 World Cup trophies between them), but the real test will be how well they perform against teams outside of CONCACAF. It will be difficult if they can’t learn from their performance against Japan.
The World Cup squad is pretty much filled with North American based players (Costa Rica & USA alone), why do you think the players haven’t ventured into Europe much? Is it a lack of quality in the league or more to do with psychological attitudes of the players?
The same could be said for Ecuador, and they produce high quality talent which does very well in Mexico but hasn’t yet ventured outside of the Americas. Don’t think its psychological. Navas, Oviedo, Campbell, and Ruiz are players doing well in Europe, with Navas being at the forefront. (Navas was one of the best ‘keepers in top 5 leagues in Europe last season). The others have performed well at the club level but the league itself isn’t considered by European clubs to be much of a scouting zone.
Costa Rica had a pretty successful World Cup qualifying campaign, finishing 2nd to only the United States. But they’re still considered inferior to the US & Mexico. Is there reason to believe they can match up to those two CONCACAF giants in the coming years on a regular basis?
They showed in qualifying that they’re capable of matching up to both with their dominant home wins, but on the road was a different story. Costa Rica’s strength is growing. It will be interesting to see if there’s a marked improvement in the next cycle of qualifying.
We at Outside of the Boot track the progress of youngsters under our #TalentRadar feature. Joel Campbell is the obvious player in focus then. What role does he have in the Costa Rican side? What can we expect from the improving youngster?
The best thing about Campbell is he can play centrally and wide, he’s fast, and has a good pass. He’s got many years ahead of him as well, and should he move up or out of Greece, anywhere in Europe’s first division leagues where he’s assured regular playing time will be a positive for the Ticos.
With three giants in their group, qualification doesn’t seem a priority but what are expectations like among Costa Ricans? Where do you see them realistically progressing till?
Italy seems like the biggest threat on paper. They match up ok with England, and Uruguay will be interesting without Luis Suarez (if injured) but Pinto isn’t looking at this campaign with the objective being to “survive and do their best.” It’s the most likely outcome, but the composure this team is capable of holding could see them go out with positive takeaways rather than going down in flames. That being said, their performance against Japan exposed their flaws in midfield. They showed confidence and composure during the first 20 minutes which helped lead to a Bryan Ruiz goal, but as soon as Japan took control, their organized midfield was too much to overcome. There was much for Costa Rica to learn about themselves from this match heading into Brazil, and one of those is how they can match up positionally with their opponents.