John Jairo Ruiz (red jersey) and Costa Rica will kick off their 2015 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship against Mexico on October 2, 2015, in Carson, California. (Photo: Mexsport)
CARSON, California -- Costa Rica doesn’t want to waste any time as it begins a quest for a place at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The Ticos are aiming for a fast start in the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, when they open the competition Friday against defending champion Mexico at the StubHub Center.
“We want to make history,” said midfielder Ulises Segura. “We are focused on that. We know that Mexico is a strong opponent. We need to be careful and give it our all in this tournament because it will be a very tight game.”
Tight is probably an understatement. Just to reach the finals, Costa Rica experienced five closely contested matches in Central American qualifying, with each one being decided by one goal or fewer. In fact, it battled to four consecutive stalemates (three of them scoreless), before posting a 1-0 win over Guatemala in the second leg of a playoff.
The offense received a boost by the Wednesday arrival of attacker John Jairo Ruiz, who joined Ukraine’s Dnipro in August. Ruiz has been influential in past Costa Rican age-group sides, scoring four goals in the 2011 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, netting three times in the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup and adding another in the 2013 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.
“I’m here with my team and I know they’ve been preparing well,” said the 21-year-old, scorer of one goal with the senior national side. “I hope to add my experience to the group so that together we can reach that dream (of qualifying). We are all going to give everything we have. We have a great team.”
Costa Rica has played in three editions of the Olympic Games, but has not qualified for one since 2004.