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Costa Rica’s golden generation to the rescue for World Cup Qatar 2022

Costa Rica will play against New Zealand to qualify for Qatar-2022, which would be their sixth participation in a World Cup, with a generation of legendary players who, enthroned by their historic role in Brazil-2014, stand the test of time.

On the 14th, in Doha, Qatar, the Ticos will seek their third consecutive participation in a World Cup with several of the architects, almost eight years ago, of their best qualification in a World Cup.

It was in Brazil-2014 when Keylor Navas (35), Óscar Duarte (33), Celso Borges (34) and Bryan Ruiz (36), in addition to Yeltsin Tejada (30) and Joel Campbell (29), reached the quarterfinals.

Now, they could be the key piece of the team, coached by the Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez, to obtain another ticket to the World Cup.

The Tricolor reaches the playoffs after a spectacular comeback in the CONCACAF octagonal, where they won 16 out of a possible 18 points, with decisive goals by Campbell, Borges and Ruiz, and a stellar performance by Navas.

“Because of their experience, they already know how to play certain types of matches, how to play in a qualifier and against the pressure, they will be a fundamental key on Tuesday,” Andrea Zamora, a journalist for Costa Rican channel TD+, told AFP.

“Brazil’s generation is a generation that is still alive, they are and have been important in this qualifying round,” Yashin Quesada, journalist and creator of the sports portal Yashinquesada.com, added to AFP.

Is this their last game?

Under the direction of Colombian José Luis Pinto, Costa Rica came first, against all odds, in the group of death at the World Cup in Brazil. In the group stage, they defeated Italy and Uruguay and drew with England. In the round of 16 they eliminated Greece, with a goal by Ruiz and a stellar performance by Navas.

“We still depend on many figures from Brazil-2014 and we should not, eight years later, be resorting to them, even though they are indisputable for their leadership and technical quality,” Gabriel Vargas, a sports journalist for the FUTV channel, told AFP.

The question now being asked by fans is how far this generation can go and whether the match against New Zealand will be the last for some of its members if they are eliminated.

“These are different circumstances. Bryan Ruiz has already said that this is the last qualifier for him, Borges has not made it clear, Campbell is a little younger and Navas has undoubtedly left to compete at the highest level,” says Quesada.

“I think that of the 2014 generation, Navas is the one who can give him the rope for the next (World Cup) process,” adds Leandro Cordero of Radio Columbia. 

No Stopping Them

Coach Suarez has opted during this process for a combination of those old glories with youth. Brandon Aguilera, Jewison Bennette and Anthony Contreras are called upon to take over from internationals that Costa Rican fans know by heart.

However, the local press highlights the difference in age and experience between the older and younger players, which could complicate the generational changeover.

The paralysis due to the pandemic and the changes of coaches would be some of the reasons that have delayed the renewal of the national team. 

“If we look at the national team, it is made up of players between 29 and 30 years of age and older, for the most part, and players from 19 to 22. It remains to analyze what happened to that generation between 24 and 28 years of age,” Irene Chinchilla, of Tigo Sports Costa Rica, told AFP.

“We should have made a generational change a long time ago,” adds Zamora. 

Away from the noise, Costa Rica’s players are training in Qatar to beat New Zealand and defend the generational change.

Suarez “has all the conditions of what it means to be a good coach, he has been able to fill us with confidence and above all to achieve that mix of experience with youth,” says Borges.

The younger players have had “humility” to learn and “that desire to go to a World Cup, work and eat the world,” says Navas.

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