The play of midfielder Celso Borges (#5) will be key to Costa Rica's success in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Photo: Mexsport)
CARSON, California – Highly favored Costa Rica kicks off its 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign against Jamaica at the StubHub Center on Wednesday, still brimming with the self-belief gained from its impressive outing at last year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Playing in a tough group alongside previous World Cup winners Uruguay, Italy and England, the Ticos produced a series of superb performances. They topped the group and advanced past the Round of 16 before falling in the quarterfinals to the Netherlands.
A year later, the Costa Ricans still hold fond memories of that experience. Head coach Paulo Wanchope said it has continued to drive the team and has made them realistic contenders for the Gold Cup.
“That will give us great confidence," the former Manchester City standout expressed. "We did well. We played against great teams and now we believe in ourselves. We believe that we can win the Gold Cup.
“It has been so difficult for us to win this tournament. We were so close in 2002 and now we feel we have a great chance of winning it.”
Wanchope was making reference to Costa Rica’s 2-0 loss to the United States in the 2002 final played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Since then, the Central American side has come up short, eliminated from the last two Gold Cups in the quarterfinals by Honduras. Wanchope, who netted seven Gold Cup goals for Costa Rica as a player, said that he did not believe this is a fate that awaits his team this time.
“We’re doing well," the 38-year-old remarked. "We’ve worked really hard and we’re really looking forward to playing our first game and we’re in good shape. We have good talent in the group. We know that it will be difficult. The USA and Mexico are the favorites to win it, but Costa Rica as well, we’re doing great things.”
Midfielder Celso Borges, the clinical Bryan Ruiz and rising-star Joel Campbell will be relied upon to power the team against Jamaica.
“We’re pleased," Wanchope finished. "We know the strengths of Jamaica and we will do our best to [counter those]. We know they have very good speed and strength, and physically they are very strong, but I think that with the ball we can do things and we can play a great game.”