This week Keylor Navas will play his first match with the Costa Rica national team since he led his country to the World Cup quarterfinals in Brazil. Fans will need to wake up early to catch the friendly against Oman. The Ticos play at 8:30 a.m. on Friday in Sultan Qaboos Sport Complex in Sohar, Oman.
Omani football fans are thrilled to have one of the world’s best goalies in town for a friendly. Keylor Navas, a humble dude, was the star of Costa Rica’s historic run at the World Cup this summer. Soon after, he starred with über-popular European club Real Madrid. Those factors makes him a popular target for fan selfies in the Middle Eastern region.
The Costa Rican Football Federation (FEDEFUT) Twitter account retweeted several images of local fans dressed in traditional Omani thobes posing for photos with Navas. Top forwards Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell also starred in some photos. But, according to FEDEFUT, Navas was by far the most solicited player for photo ops during the team’s first practice in Oman on Thursday.
Unfortunately, Costa Ricans won’t have their own chance to see the Tico star play in his homeland this year. FEDEFUT ridiculously didn’t take advantage of the team’s best-ever World Cup performance and schedule a home match for La Sele in 2014.
Costa Rica — using a lineup similar to its World Cup roster — will face South Korea in Seoul on Oct. 14 (at 5 a.m.) and battle Uruguay in Montevideo on Nov. 11 to wrap up the year.
Talented reserve goalie Esteban Alvarado is expected to play in place of Navas in at least one of the matches on this Asia tour. Alvarado has not participated in a match for La Sele since FEDEFUT suspended him from the team in 2011 for abandoning the club before a friendly match. (UPDATE: Alvarado will indeed get his first start in three years against Oman.)
Oman (76th in the world) is actually one of the better teams in the Asian Football Confederation, ranking seventh in the region. But the Asian confederation overall is awful, so this is a match Costa Rica (16th in the world) should expect to win. The four World Cup qualifiers from the region (Japan, South Korea, Iran and Australia) all failed to make it out of the group stage of the tournament.
Without Navas, La Sele still managed to win the Central America Cup last month. The Ticos actually haven’t lost a match in regulation play since June 2. Their last defeat occurred against an Asian opponent. Costa Rica fell to Japan 3-1, two weeks before the start of the World Cup.
COSTA RICA’S ROSTER FOR TWO-MATCH ASIA TOUR
*=Member of World Cup squad
Keylor Navas* (Real Madrid)
Esteban Alvarado (AZ Alkmaar)
Óscar Duarte* (Brujas)
Pablo Salazar (Herediano)
Michael Umaña* (Persépolis FC)
Roy Miller* (Red Bulls)
Cristian Gamboa* (West Bromwich)
Felicio Brown (UFA FC)
Junior Díaz* (Mainz 05)
Yeltsin Tejeda (Evian)
Juan Bustos Golobio (Saprissa)
José Miguel Cubero (Blackpool)
Celso Borges (AIK)
Johan Venegas (Alajuelense)
Joel Campbell* (Arsenal)
John Jairo Ruiz (K.V. Oostende)
Bryan Ruiz* (Fulham)
Álvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake)
Mayron George (OFI Creta)
David Ramírez (Saprissa)