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Costa Rica calls up regulars to open WCQ campaign
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Bryan Ruiz (red jersey), shown in a September 8, 2015, international friendly against visiting Uruguay, was called up for Costa Rica's World Cup qualifiers in November. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Slightly more than 16 months have passed since Costa Rica’s historic run in the 2014 FIFA World Cup ended. 

The Ticos were eliminated on penalty kicks, 4-3, following a scoreless draw with the Netherlands in a quarterfinal encounter played in Salvador, Brazil.

Some things have changed for the Costa Ricans since then, most especially among the head coaching ranks. Jorge Luis Pinto, who departed shortly after the World Cup success, was replaced on an interim basis by Paulo Wanchope. The Costa Rica national team legend led the side to a record-extending eighth Central American title in September 2014 and was eventually given the job permanently.

A disappointing campaign in the CONCACAF Gold Cup produced a trio of group-stage draws and a 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Mexico after extra time. Wanchope and the Federación Costarricense de Fútbol parted ways August 12 after the 39-year-old was involved in a physical altercation in the stands at the Estadio Maracana in Panama City, Panama, following a Central Olympic qualifier.

A week later, former Alajuelense manager Oscar Ramirez was handed the top job, posting a 2W-0D-2L record in his first four games, including a 1-0 win at the United States last month.

On Friday, he named a 23-man squad as Costa Rica opens its bid for a return to the global stage in the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 

While a majority of the regulars have been selected, one name missing from the list was goalkeeper Keylor Navas. The 28-year-old helped Real Madrid to a 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League earlier in the week, but was not but included in the Spanish giant’s squad for a La Liga match at Sevilla on Sunday due to a lingering right-groin injury. 

When asked about Navas’ absence, Ramirez responded: "He’s an important player due to his leadership and his position on the field, but we all know that it (goalkeeper) is one of the area where we are strongest.” 

Ramirez’s choice for goalkeeper will come from between Esteban Alvarado, Leonel Moreira and Patrick Pemberton. Of those three, only Pemberton possesses World Cup Qualifying experience with two games under his belt. 

Costa Rica will host Haiti on November 13 at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose to open Group B play, before visiting Panama four days later.  

COSTA RICA ROSTER

(World Cup Qualifying: November 13, 2015, home v Haiti; November 17, 2015, away v Panama) 

GOALKEEPERS: Esteban Alvarado (Trabzonspor/Turkey), Leonel Moreira (Herediano), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense) 

DEFENDERS: Johnny Acosta (Alajuelense), Francisco Calvo (Saprissa), Junior Diaz (Darmstadt 98/Germany), Oscar Duarte (Club Brugge/Belgium), Cristian Gamboa (West Bromwich Albion (England), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Palermo/Italy), Dave Myrie (Herediano/Costa Rica), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps) 

MIDFIELDERS: Randall Azofeifa (Herediano/Costa Rica), Cristian Bolaños (Saprissa), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruña/Spain), Óscar Esteban Granados (Herediano), Ronald Matarrita (Alajuelense), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting Lisbon/Portugal) 

FORWARDS: Joel Campbell (Arsenal/England), Daniel Colindres (Saprissa), Ariel Rodríguez (Saprissa), Álvaro Saborío (D.C. United/USA), Marco Ureña (Midtjylland/Denmark), Johan Venegas (Impact de Montreal/Canada)

 
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