Costa Rica’s Wanchope ready for high expectations

Paulo Wanchope (pictured) will lead Costa Rica at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Photo: Mexsport

PHILADELPHIA -- Costa Rica has one tough act to follow in 2015 -- itself. 

After reaching the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals for the first time last summer, much is anticipated from the Ticos in the CONCACAF Gold Cup this July. 

No one has to remind new head coach Paulo Cesar Wanchope about that assertion. 

"It will be a big challenge for us," said the 38-year-old.  "Everyone now will expect Costa Rica to play any game and play a great football and win against any team.  We need to keep calm and play game by game and play and reach the finals." 

The Costa Ricans, who are one of the three seeded teams along with the United States and Mexico in the competition, have reached the final once -- losing to the Americans at the 2002 tournament.

No team outside of North America has won the Gold Cup with Mexico leading the way with six titles, followed by the USA (five) and Canada (one). 

So, if Costa Rica or another side can wrest the trophy away, history will be made.

Asked what his team needs to do to win the championship, Wanchope replied, "Prepare well, have the confidence to go on and win it.  We need to play game-by-game and get better and better.  And when we have the chance to play against either Mexico or the USA, we will be even better prepared to win the tournament." 

The current Central American champion opens its Group B slate against Jamaica in Carson, California on July 8, before facing El Salvador in Houston on July 11 and Canada in Toronto on July 14. 

"There is no time to relax," Wanchope continued.  "We know it’s going to be even harder.  All the games are going to be tough because of what we did in the World Cup.  We know that.  That will keep us working harder every day." 

Regardless the Gold Cup opponent, the Costa Rica national team legend as player believed the group stage will pose challenges.  There are fewer and fewer secrets in international football these days. 

"Everyone has information to prepare their teams," the former Manchester City standout remarked.  "It is quite close now.  We have to prepare game by game to work very hard to win against any team." 

Costa Rica has many key players on European rosters, which can be a blessing and a curse. 

"That helps," Wanchope said of the foreign legion.  “At the moment, we have a problem because some of the key players are not playing.  That's something that we need to be very intelligent and put together a group of players who can compete for the Gold Cup."