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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Costa Rica, Jamaica are group favorites as Gold Cup tournament begins

Without the presence of its biggest star, goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Costa Rica will debut on Monday in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup against Guadalupe.

The match is part of Group C, which is completed by Suriname and Jamaica.

The Ticos’ debut in the tournament will be at Exploria Stadium, in Orlando, Florida, starting at 9:00 p.m. local time (7 p.m. in Costa Rica).

The Central American team, one of those that always enters the competition as candidates, will have a new manager. Two weeks ago they hired Colombian coach Luis Fernando Suárez, who twice has taken teams to the World Cup — Ecuador and Honduras in 2006 and 2014, respectively.

However, Suárez has barely been able to participate in a handful of training sessions with the full squad.

In addition, Costa Rica carries the burden of not winning a match since November 2019, in a total of 11 matches.

Despite this, Suárez believes that Costa Rica is the favorite to lead Group C.

“Costa Rica should seek to be the protagonist. It fills me with a lot of optimism. We not only think that it is a tournament to prepare for the qualifiers, one would fall short if it were like that. The goal is to win the tournament. I hope it will be a good Gold Cup for us,” Suárez said at a press conference on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Guadalupe earned the last spot at the tournament by winning a dramatic penalty shootout against Guatemala.

Neither Costa Rica nor Guadalupe have been able to win the Gold Cup. The Ticos’ best result was second place in 2002, while Guadalupe reached the semifinals in 2007.

Costa Rica’s biggest challenger in Group C will likely be Jamaica, which finished second at the 2015 and 2017 Gold Cups. When they last met, La Sele secured a 1-0 victory over Jamaica in a 2019 international friendly.

While the top two teams from each Gold Cup group advance, finishing in first would better-position La Sele for a deeper tournament run in the knockout stages.

Probable lineups:

Costa Rica: Leonel Moreira – Keysher Fuller, Óscar Duarte, Francisco Calvo, Ronald Matarrita – Allan Cruz, Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz, Johan Venegas, Jimmy Marín – Joel Campbell. DT: Luis Fernando Suárez.

Guadalupe: Yohann Thuram-Ulien – Anthony Baron, Mickël Alphonse, Kelly Irep, Steve Solvet – Ronald Hautervile, Dimitri Kavaré, Kevin Malpon, Morgan Saint-Maximin – Raphael Mirval, Matthias Phaeton- DT: Jocelyn Angloma.

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