Junior Diaz (white) and Costa Rica will meet Mexico in a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal on July 19, 2015, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo: Mexsport)
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey – Junior Diaz doesn’t want to dwell on the last two Gold Cups, when Costa Rica was eliminated in the quarterfinals – both times by Honduras.
Rather, the veteran defender wants to focus on the momentum the Ticos created last summer and hopes that carries over to the current CONCACAF competition.
“We made history in the World Cup and now we want to make history in the Gold Cup. That is the mentality now in the team,” Diaz told CONCACAF.com. “We don’t think about the past that we didn’t win the Gold Cup. Now it’s the present. We have the option to do that. We will try our best to do that.”
For Costa Rica to win its first-ever Gold Cup title, it will have to beat six-time champion Mexico in the quarterfinals Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It’s a showdown of powerhouse teams many thought could be a semifinal or final.
In fact, the last time the teams met in the knockout round of the Gold Cup it was the semifinals of the 2009 tournament and Mexico advanced 5-3 on penalties after playing to a 1-1 draw.
In 2007, Mexico won 1-0 in the quarterfinals and, in 2003, the El Tri defeated Costa Rica, 2-0, in the semifinals at Azteca Stadium.
The last meeting came last month when the Ticos played Mexico to a 2-2 draw in Orlando in both teams’ final Gold Cup tune-up.
“Normally we expect that team in the semifinals, but if you want to win the cup we must play against this team,” Diaz remarked. “It can also be the USA. We’ll try to do the best because we know if we win we can be stronger in the semifinals.”
While Mexico feels pressure every time it steps on the field, Diaz said the same is now true of Costa Rica after reaching the World Cup quarterfinals in Brazil last summer. It was the furthest the Ticos advanced in the competition after making the Round of 16 in 1990.
“Because we did a good job in the World Cup, everybody think we now must win the Gold Cup,” commented Diaz. “We need to demonstrate that in the camp. There it will be difference. We will try to do that and make good decisions and have good concentration in the game Sunday.”
Even though Costa Rica hasn’t won a game yet in this Gold Cup, Diaz said he’s seen an improvement in each match, each of which ended in a draw.
“I think we’re getting better. Game after game we tried to do better,” the 31-year-old finished. “In the first two games against El Salvador and Jamaica, we did a very good job. We drew, but I think we did good work. Against Canada, it was a hard game and I think we played better than the first two games. That gives us motivation because we’re still in the tournament and now we know the next step is Mexico.”