The soccer teams of Costa Rica and Panama will meet Saturday in the first of two friendlies to prepare for the CONCACAF qualifiers before the 2022 Men’s World Cup, in matches marked by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first match will be held Saturday at 8 p.m. at the National Stadium in San José, and the second will be held Tuesday at the same venue and time.
Costa Rica reaches the friendlies with a team decimated by Covid-19, as three of the country’s first-division teams have been affected by outbreaks.
Alajuelense, leader of the tournament, had four players called up to La Sele who had to be replaced after the team presented 11 cases of Covid-19.
One of those affected is Bryan Ruiz, captain of the Tico team, who revealed on his social networks that he is one of the 11 Alajuelense players infected by the coronavirus.
The teams of Grecia and Santos, also with summoned players, presented cases of contagion.
Even so, the coach Rónald González managed to complete the team with the arrival of defender Oscar Duarte, from Levante (Spain), the only legionario called up for the matches with Panama.
“We are complete and now we have to prepare for Saturday’s game. We hope to do things well and give Professor González options. Panama has a new coach and these days we are going to see a little what they do,” said veteran midfielder Marvin Angulo.
Costa Rican players have had the chance to play in their local championship since last May, while Panama has had no internal competition since its soccer tournament was suspended in March due to the pandemic.
However, the Panamanian coach, Thomas Christiansen, is confident that his team will enthusiastically make up for what they lack in physical preparation.
“Panama and the national team are in very good spirits. Physically we could be better, but if the desire is there, we are sure to go out on the field and get a good result,” Christiansen said in an interview distributed by the Panamanian federation.
In March, CONCACAF will start qualifying matches for Qatar-2022.
Panama will participate in that first round, while Costa Rica has a spot in the final phase of eight teams that will compete for the three direct places at the World Cup and one for a playoff with a representative from another continent.
These friendlies also serve as preparation for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, to be held in 2021.