MIAMI, Florida – Ever since they qualified for their first FIFA World Cup at Italy 1990, Costa Rica have become a regular fixture at the tournament and have reached four of the last five World Cups, including a memorable quarterfinal finish at Brazil 2014.
Now, a new cycle of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying awaits and one of the members of Costa Rica’s current golden generation, MF Celso Borges, who represented the National Team at Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018, says he and his teammates are ready to begin the journey to Qatar 2022.
“To reach a World Cup, it takes a mountain of work. You have a lot to do to carry out that process, make sure it is effective and that it is the result that we all seek,” said Borges in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
“It takes a lot to do it: Good coaching, consistency and leadership at the federation level, because the only way we can keep progressing as a footballing nation is to go to the World Cup and we hope that Qatar won’t be any different, but we know that it will be hard,” added Borges.
Because of Costa Rica’s recent success in World Cups and Concacaf WCQ, the Ticos have assumed the mantle of being one of Concacaf’s giants. Former Costa Rica international and current Deportivo Saprissa Head Coach Walter Centeno feels like there is a duty for Costa Rica to stay among the area’s elite.
“I think Costa Rica have taken on the role as a protagonist among the top three teams in the region: United States, Mexico and Costa Rica. They have been one of the most consistent teams on the world stage in recent years,” said Centeno in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
“I think Costa Rica have a great chance, but they have to show it. They have a generation that is very experienced, but now they have to start back again from square one if they want to return to the World Cup,” added Centeno.
Costa Rica are coming off a 2019 in which they finished as quarterfinalists at the Concacaf Gold Cup, losing narrowly to Mexico in a penalty shootout, before reaching the semifinals of the Concacaf Nations League. Borges believes the boost from their Nations League performance will help set the tone for WCQ.
“We have good young strong players, so we are looking for that perfect balance so that the national team can be on a good path. The Nations League was a good performance from all the young players, they’re getting good experience and seeing what qualifying environments are like. I think all of those experiences will serve them well, but it will be difficult. I think the coaching staff and us players will be ready and prepared to be able to go to another World Cup,” said Borges.
Like so many others learned during last summer’s Gold Cup when for the first time ever two Caribbean teams reached the semifinals in Jamaica and Haiti, Borges sees the islands as the fastest improving area within the Concacaf region and expects another WCQ cycle full of trepidation when facing teams from the Caribbean.
“I think it is the region that has grown the most in the last several years. It’s a tough environment because you enter into a relaxed environment, an island environment, hotels on the beach, so staying focused on the task at hand is hard. For the coach, it’s tough because he is saying, ‘Hey, we have come here to do something.’ Some of the fields are artificial grass, which many of us are not accustomed to, and their players play in good leagues, like in France, England, Netherlands, so it’s really hard to get points. We as players value greatly getting a result in those matches,” said Borges.
That line of thinking also feeds into Centeno’s belief that big teams like Costa Rica simply can’t turn up to matches in Concacaf and expect to win solely based on the jersey they are wearing.
“Nowadays in football you can’t just win because of your shirt, you have to play the matches, you have to try different things, you have to prepare well. I think they have a big responsibility and have to lean on everything that they have won and write a new page in Costa Rican football history,” said Centeno.
Fortunately for Costa Rica, they are one of the top five ranked teams in Concacaf based on FIFA Ranking as of July 16, 2020, which means the Central American side advanced directly to the Final Round of Concacaf WCQ in which eight teams will be involved.
If the last several cycles are any indication, Costa Rica have the mentality to emerge with one of the precious three tickets to the World Cup.
“We’re in the final phase and from my point of view we deserve to be there due to our previous results. Nobody has gifted our position. We have fought hard to be there. It’s true that we face a longer qualifying cycle, including four matches in June, so those matches are very important, just like in the Hexagonal when your last match was at home and then your next match in the next window was at home. Those are six vital points, so I think we will play with a lot of confidence,” concluded Borges.