The stakes couldn’t be higher: if Costa Rica loses to its opponent on Friday, it will be out of the World Cup.
That opponent? Just an up-and-coming underdog called Brazil.
On Monday, an apparent argument between players Johan Venegas and Giancarlo González was broadcast by a live feed from the Costa Rican Football Federation (Fedefut). While the video was quickly removed, it served to spark rumors that there are divisions on the team.
“It was just the head of the moment. It was nothing. This happens all the time. Afterwards, [the two players] talked it over in the locker room,” team captain Bryan Ruíz said Tuesday.
Ruíz also denied rumors of friction with coach Oscar Ramírez, and asked fans and the press to help in “trying to win a very difficult match.”
“I dream of defeating Brazil,”he said.
Forward Marco Ureña said Sunday’s victory was frustrating, but that “I am focusing on the positive: our attitude, desire to win, drive, and maybe some more luck.”
He also addressed rumors that star goalkeeper Keylor Navas is staying aloof from the team.
“You have to understand that Keylor… on another level than the rest of us, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a great teammate, that he isn’t himself around us. We just have to thank him for coming, thank him for defending us and for doing what he does on the field to help us,” he said.
For their part, Brazilian fans are watching nervously as star Neymar reportedly battles an injury. Neymar hobbled out of a training session on Tuesday, setting alarm bells ringing in the Brazil camp as they prepare for their Friday’s match. (Brazil had a surprisingly weak showing in its first match, tying Switzerland 1-1. Costa Rica lost to Serbia, 1-0).
“Neymar came out of training today with a painful right ankle,” said Vinicius Rodrigues, a spokesman for the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).
He put the the knock down to the number of fouls Neymar received in Sunday’s match in Rostov-on-Don in Brazil’s opening Group E outing.
The 26-year-old could be seen grimacing as he held his right ankle after feeling pain as he took part in a light session for those who had started that game.
Neymar had not taken part in training on Monday, as the side returned to their base in Sochi on Russia’s Black Sea coast.