In the latest example of LoVS's unparalleled ability to take the most strenuous of Bolton Wanderers links and stretch it over numerous articles, here's my profile of the highest ranked team in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup - Costa Rica.
Manager: Paulo Wonchope
When I began my research for this profile I was immediately set aback when I discovered that Paulo Wanchope was the Costa Rica manager. I was certain that he wasn't the boss during the World Cup, but had no idea why the man who led Costa Rice to their highest point in football history, would no longer be in charge.
As it transpires, the man who stewarded Costa Rica's amazing World Cup campaign, Jorge Luis Pinto, resigned shortly after the competition came to a close, officially due to being unable to come to terms over a new contract. But it would also appear that falling outs and disagreements with members of his backroom staff and the Costa Rican FA were also big factors.
Upon leaving his role, the Colombian said:
"I slept with the enemy for 1 1/2 years. I had my differences with the staff. They don't share my style. I'm demanding. I want dedication and effort. It wasn't possible to reach an agreement,' he added. 'I ask myself, "What use are the victories obtained in Brazil?"
His two assistants took over the reigns temporarily until one of them, Wanchope, was handed the job on a full time basis.
It could be argued that Wanchope is Costa Rica's best ever play and probably their best European export too. In an illustrious career, that was plagued somewhat by recurring knee injuries, he scored well over 140 goals for both club and country. Turning out for Derby Count, Manchester City, West Ham United and Malaga, before he embarked on a tour of the Middle East and the Americas. For his country, he scored 45 goals in 73 games, a great ratio of a goal every 1.6 games. He sits second in Costa Rica's all time goal scorer record, only two behind Rolando Fonseca, who played forty more matches.
On the management side of things, he is vastly inexperienced. His first job was managing his first team, Herediano, where he lasted a year. Upon leaving he expressed his disappointment at the team performances being low, which is kind of his job to rectify, and also his distaste for the club's administration.
He was hired as assistant manger for Pinto in 2010, and along with Luís Marin, was hired as interim manager upon Pinto's departure. Despite his lack of experience, in 2014, Wanchope won the Cop Centroamericana, a tournament contested between the seven teams of the UNCAF federation, with Costa Rica, beating Guatemala 2-1 in the final.
Unfortunately one of the stars of Costa Rica's World Cup foray, goalkeeper Keylor Navas, will miss out on the tournament due to suffering an Achilles tendon injury in his heel. A great shame, as Navas has been hardly played at Real Madrid last season despite the demise of Iker Casillas, and it would have been great to see him between the sticks for his country once more, but alas. Los Ticos will now rely on Patrick Pemberton to keep the opposing strikers at bay. Another player who hasn't made the Gold Cup squad who was prominent in World Cup is Christian Bolaños. You may remember him as the chap who wore the head band. I do know why he won't be participating this year, but I'm gutted, I loved him in the World Cup as he had all the flair and had a great set piece on him.
Other notable absentees from a year ago include Oscar Duarte, Marco Ureña and Yeltsin Tejeda.
One player, however, who sadly missed out on the World Cup due to injury has now returned to fitness and has made the Costa Rica squad for the tournament, striker Álvaro Saborío. The Real Salt Lake frontman was set to travel to Brazil last summer, but broke his metatarsal in training and had to miss out. Although he is now 33, he will no doubt be wanting to prove he still has what it takes to play for his country and add to his impress 34 goals. He netted 17 times for RSL last season, so his deadly finishing abilities may well come in handy for Los Ticos.
Goalkeepers: Esteban Alvarado (Unattached), Dany Carvajal (Saprissa), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense).
Defenders: Keyner Brown (Herediano), Francisco Calvo (Saprissa), Junior Diaz (FSV Mainz 05), Christian Gamboa (West Bromwich Albion), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Palermo), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls), Dave Myrie (Herediano), Michael Umaña (Persepolis FC).
Midfielders: Elias Aguilar (Herediano), Marvin Angulo (Saprissa), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruña), Jose Miguel Cubero (Blackpool), David Guzman (Saprissa), Bryan Ruiz (Fulham), Deyver Vega (Saprissa), Johan Venegas (Alajuelense).
Forwards: Joel Campbell (Arsenal), Jonathan McDonald (Alajuelense), David Ramirez (Saprissa), Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake).
Key Player: Bryan Ruiz
Writing this profile has been a great excuse for me to go back and watch the highlights of all of Costa Rica's World Cup matches once more. It was a near enough a year ago when they were bringing surprise and joy to the world stage, and the Los Ticos were a pleasure to watch. I stroll down memory lane to remind myself of who their best players are, who who will be most important come the Gold Cup.
Whilst Costa Rica have a very decent squad with some talented players, it's hard to look past Fulham's Bryan Ruiz as their most important player. Aside from Gamboa's mazy runs down the wing, all of Costa Rica's attacks run through Ruiz. He has the skill and the flair to be able to create something out of seemingly nothing and he's always good for a goal for his country. Add to that, he is the captain of the side. A very important player indeed.
Chances of Winning
Before I discovered that Pinto was no longer manager, Costa Rica were actually my bet to win the competition. After an amazing display at the World Cup, they'd be going into the Gold Cup wanting to prove it wasn't just a fluke and that they are worthy of their lofty FIFA world ranking. Now, I'm not so sure. They're manager has very little experience and it's actually been quite a while since they last won a game - losing their last three friendlies 2-1 to Panama, 1-0 to Colombia and 2-1 to Spain. They'll also be without the amazing Keylor Navas and some other key components of the side that made the World Cup team work. I imagine they'll make it out of their group, but I can't see them being able to beat either USA or Mexico.