The golden generation of Costa Rican football will again have the opportunity to shine as it gets set for one of the world’s most competitive international tournaments. With only a few weeks remaining before kick-off at the 2016 Copa América, head coach Óscar Ramírez has announced the 23-man roster he’ll be taking to the tournament in the United States.
Ramírez will be keeping hold of the same base of stars that he has featured ever since his debut on the bench last year. Stars like goalie Keylor Navas, forward Joel Campbell, and captain Bryan Ruíz make up the nucleus of Costa Rica’s talented Copa América roster, which saw only a few surprise call-ups.
José Salvatierra, a defender for noted Costa Rican club Alajuelense, comes as a bit of a surprise after beating out more established, yet aging defenders like Roy Miller and Júnior Díaz for one of the last defensemen spots. Another startling pick on the defensive end comes in the form of 33-year-old Michael Umaña, who will be playing with La Sele for the first time since Ramírez has taken over.
Umaña, who scored the game-winning penalty kick in the 2014 World Cup Round of 16 against Greece, has been relatively quiet since converting his now-iconic goal. He left La Sele in the middle of last year’s Gold Cup to resolve contractual problems with his Iranian club Persepolis.
Defender Giancarlo González was kept off Ramírez’s initial 40-man roster announced weeks ago, although the head coach said the defenseman playing in Italy’s Serie A league has been putting in a lot of time for La Sele and earned a rest. Ever since a remarkable display in the 2014 World Cup, González has been a shell of himself in recent outings for Costa Rica.
Two other notable additions to the Copa América roster include a pair of starters bouncing back from injuries: midfielder Yeltsin Tejeda and speedy defender Bryan Oviedo. Tejeda should challenge Cristian Bolaños for a starting spot in the middle while Oviedo will look to be one of the five defensemen that Ramírez puts on his back line, where he could get the nod over Johnny Acosta or Ronald Matarrita.
Costa Rica begins Copa América play on June 4 with Paraguay in Orlando, Florida. The Ticos will try to maneuver their way through the “group of death” that also includes the host country United States and South American power Colombia.
La Sele will have a pair of warm-up friendlies against South American Football Confederation teams before the tournament, beginning on May 28 with Venezuela. Ramírez’s group will then take on World Cup and Copa América runner-up Argentina on May 31 in Miami, Florida.