Jose Miguel Cubero (pictured) is expected to play a key role for Costa Rica in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Photo: Mexsport)
CARSON, California – Central American champion Costa Rica opens its 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign on Wednesday against Jamaica in the opening match of a Group B doubleheader at StubHub Center.
Here are Three Points to consider ahead of the game:
1) Ticos dynamic duo
Leading Costa Rica’s Gold Cup charge will be dynamic playmakers Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell. With world-class talent and international pedigree to boot, the duo comprise one of the most inspirational part-nerships in all of CONCACAF. Ruiz, who recently joined Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon, was tremendous for the Ticos at last summer’s World Cup, famously heading home the decisive goal against four-time world champion, Italy. The 29-year-old also netted in the final of the 2014 Central American, helping to secure the team’s Gold Cup qualification. Campbell also impressed last summer in Brazil, hammering home a beautiful goal against Uruguay in the group stages. Both Ruiz and Campbell have one career goal in the Gold Cup.
2) Is it the Caribbean’s turn?
Despite being a hotbed of soccer talent, no Caribbean nation has ever been crowned Gold Cup champion. In fact, while Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago have both advanced as far as the tournament semi-finals, no team from the Caribbean region has ever appeared in the final. That could be all set to change in the 2015 Gold Cup, however, as Jamaica looks to end the 24-year drought. The Reggae Boyz, under the guidance of manager Winfried Schafer, feature numerous players currently featuring in the English leagues and who were part of the 2014 Caribbean Cup-winning squad. Championing the Reggae Boyz’ cause is influential midfield captain Rodolph Austin. The former Leeds United man should be well pre-pared after playing every minute of the team’s three Copa America matches.
3) Replacing Navas
The biggest question facing Costa Rica ahead of its Gold Cup opener is how it will cope with the absence of goalkeeper Keylor Navas. One of the world’s best, the 28-year-old was a revelation throughout the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, leading the Ticos all the way to the quarterfinals. Disappointingly, however, Navas (currently on the books with Real Madrid) was recently ruled out of Gold Cup participation following a tendinitis flare-up in his Achilles’ heel. While he’ll be dearly missed, the Costa Rican faithful should have full confidence in back-up Esteban Alvarado, who spent last season as the starter for AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch top-flight. With five senior caps under his belt, Alvarado will be making his first Gold Cup appearance.