SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Not that a loss or a draw in a World Cup Qualifying opener portends a struggle going forward, but a win sets the right tone and creates optimism.
For a team like Costa Rica, which has a new head coach in Oscar Ramirez and is bidding to replicate its stunning performance at Brazil 2014, a victory over visiting Haiti on Friday would help to release any possible built up pressure.
“We have a great opportunity to start qualifying on the right foot,” said midfielder Celso Borges. “We open at home against a good opponent. For that reason, we should take the reins of the match and be aggressive at home.”
The Ticos are one of six sides to receive a bye into the fourth round. That extra time has given Ramirez an opportunity to identify potential additions to the squad.
Herediano midfielder Randall Azofeifa, who has not featured for the La Sele since a 2-2 draw against El Salvador in 2012, is one of those players.
“I cannot deny that I am very happy for the call and my return to the national team,” said the 30-year-old, who scored in a Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League match against Isidro Metapan in August. “Now, more than ever, I think I arrive at a good moment. The coach knows me and knows what I can contribute, but I know that I should show it on the pitch with good play.”
Costa Rica’s status as a footballing power now extends beyond the CONCACAF region. In order to protect that standing, avoiding upsets is crucial, especially since the eight-time Central American champion will now be sure to get the very best of every opponent it faces.
“I think that Costa Rica is seen as the big team of the area, so that’s why teams always come with everything against us,” said Saprissa defender Francisco Calvo. “While we know that on occasion we will face some physical games, in qualifying we will not gift anything.”
In its last outing on October 13, Costa Rica posted a 1-0 win at the United States on a second-half goal by Joel Campbell.