Costa Rica’s Ramirez expects difficult Gold Cup group

Costa Rica head coach Oscar Ramirez (pictured) answers questions during a CONCACAF Gold Cup media event on March 7, 2017, in Santa Clara, California, USA. (Photo: Howard Smith/isiphotos.com)

SANTA CLARA, California – Familiarity -- and a lack of it -- marked Costa Rica’s fortunes as the groups for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup were announced Tuesday at Levi’s Stadium.

The Ticos kick off their schedule on July 7 with a meeting against Central American rival Honduras, followed by encounters with usual Gold Cup foe Canada (July 11) and debutant French Guiana (July 14).

Regardless of its opposition throughout the Gold Cup’s 26-year- history, Costa Rica knows that navigating the schedule has its challenges. It has reached the final only once, losing 2-0 to the USA in 2002, and has been eliminated at the quarterfinal stage in the last three editions.

“It’s an even group,” said Ramirez after the unveiling event. “We know that Honduras is well formed because [head coach Jorge Luis] Pinto is difficult. It is well placed in the Hexagonal.

“Canada was eliminated [from World Cup Qualifying], but comes in with a new generation, a new coach and always maintains a similar level from one process to the other. We know little about French Guiana, but that they have players of French descent and that it’s a football in development.”

Despite all of its success over the years in qualifying for World Cups and winning numerous editions of the Copa Centroamericana, Costa Rica has registered only one victory in 14 combined Gold Cup meetings with Honduras and Canada.

And while Ramirez hopes to change that trend in 2017, he has always enjoyed the Gold Cup experience. First as a player in 1991 through the present as a head coach.

“Now, you just try to enjoy it. It’s beautiful,” Ramirez finished. “All the countries get together, all of the people of these countries here in the United States, everybody from the Caribbean, everybody from Central America, the Mexican fans and the U.S. fans, which have increase greatly. It is much more attractive.”