The contributions of Shirley Cruz (red jersey) to the growth of women's football in Costa Rica have been essential. (Photo: Mexsport)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Costa Rica secured a place in the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship with room to spare, winning both of its opening matches by narrow single-goal margins.
Those well-contested displays can largely be credited to the willingness of squad members to sacrifice and play for each other, says team captain Shirley Cruz.
“This is a very unified team,” Cruz told CONCACAF.com. “There is a good balance among the players and we also have a fair amount of experience. We are playing together on the field.”
Costa Rica earned a 1-0 victory over Mexico, claimed all three points in a 2-1 thriller over Jamaica and then topped previously-eliminated Martinique 6-1 to finish first in Group B.
“It feels phenomenal,” expressed the 29-year-old. “We are really happy with our play. We have worked very hard and our work is bearing fruit.”
With a victory in Friday’s semifinal against Trinidad & Tobago in Chester, Pennsylvania, Costa Rica would qualify for its first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup. Attaining that objective would be particularly significant to Cruz, who has been with the national team since 2002.
“It would mean a lot to qualify for the Women’s World Cup,” she noted. “Costa Rica has never qualified for it, so it would be historic. We have worked with the mentality that we can do it.”
The midfielder is one of several veterans on the team to work with younger player, one of whom is as young as 15-years-old. It is a role that she clearly enjoys.
“I have the responsibility to help younger players here just like in my club team,” said the Paris Saint-Germain standout. “It is important for players to have support, but it’s not just me. It is the team in general that helps teach.”
Cruz has spent the last nine years utilizing her considerable skills in France. Prior to joining PSG in 2012, she played seven seasons at Lyon, winning a pair of UEFA Women’s Champions League titles.
“All of that work playing has helped both as a player and a person,” concluded Cruz.
And, equally important, it has helped to put Costa Rica on the women’s football map.