Shirley Cruz (white jersey) has played at the senior level for Costa Rica since 2002. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
TORONTO -- If Costa Rica has any plans on making a second straight appearance in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Shirley Cruz will have to play a big role in making that happen.
As a member of 2016/17 UEFA Women’s Champions League runner-up Paris Saint-Germain, the midfielder is one of a few professional players in the Costa Rican ranks. She’s an example of what’s possible. Her experience is simply irreplaceable.
“Playing in Paris is a huge difference for me,” Cruz said through a translator after Costa Rica’s 6-0 loss to host Canada on Sunday. “Those players are at the professional level. Here it’s different because the players I’m currently playing with in this team, there’s only myself and (a few) other pro players.”
In the second game of a pair of friendlies against the Canadians, Costa Rica couldn’t recover after conceding four goals in the opening 21 minutes. Through the middle of the game, the Ticas stabilized, but allowed two more in as many minutes during a second-half stretch.
Cruz, 31, realizes that Costa Rica must challenge itself in order to qualify for another World Cup. That’s why the Central American power hopes to continue squaring off against quality opposition ahead of qualifying competitions for France 2019.
“Playing against a team like Canada with more experienced players, it’s quite hard,” finished Cruz. “So I feel like sometimes, as a pro player, that we need a more balanced team. We just don’t have that right now. Knowing that, we feel that in order to qualify for the next World Cup, we’re going to have to play much harder to get there.”
The World Cup Qualifying clock is ticking, but Cruz plans on being there – once again – when the alarm rings.