Costa Rica aims to cap historic summer with CCA glory

Costa Rica (pictured) will look to win its eighth Copa Centroamericana Tigo USA 2014 title, when it meets Guatemala in the final on September 13, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo: Mexsport)

LOS ANGELES -- Gone are the heat, humidity and bright lights of the Brazilian summer.  Visions of Bryan Ruiz’s virtuoso performance against Italy and Keylor Navas’ heroics against Greece have been carefully tucked away within the nation’s collective memory bank. 

And now, with the United States autumn nearing, Costa Rica – a team brimming with self-belief – faces its newest challenge: a record-extending eighth Central American Cup (CCA) title. 

After edging out Panama on goal difference to claim top honors in Group B, the Ticos – along with securing qualification for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup – have also gained a place in Saturday’s final at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum against Group A winner Guatemala. 

Further adding to the evening’s drama is that the champion – in addition to earning Central American glory – will book a ticket to the Centennial Cup America 2016. 

While it is true that the Ticos’ famous run to the quarterfinals in Brazil has brought with it increased expectations, for interim manager Paulo Wanchope, there are no shortcuts; everything must be earned. 

“The Costa Rican ethos, our identity, is about fighting hard and getting the best out of every player,” said Wanchope.  “That’s what we want to maintain.” 

Never has that ethos bore more fruit than over the past few months.  After proving the surprise of the tournament in Brazil, advancing farther than any Central American team in World Cup history, the Costa Ricans have skyrocketed from 34th to 15th in the FIFA rankings.

With that being said, the Central American Cup has been far from a straightforward affair for Costa Rica, which narrowly avoided defeat against Panama in its second Group B match courtesy of goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton’s last minute penalty save. 

In support, La Sele has welcomed five new faces ahead the final, including captain Bryan Ruiz (Fulham/England) and defender Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls/USA).  Although the additions of Ruiz and Miller will surely be welcomed by the Costa Rican faithful, the team has also been forced to part with World Cup heroes Joel Campbell (Arsenal/England) and Oscar Duarte (Club Brugge/Belgium), both of whom have headed back overseas for club duty. 

So it all comes down to this:  Will Costa Rica’s summer of dreams continue?  Or will Guatemala burst the Ticos bubble?  

The final awaits…