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Friday, July 12, 2024

Costa Rica’s New Goalkeeper: From Hero to Zero in Copa América

His name became known after shining against Brazil, but from the pedestal, he went on to eat dust against Colombia. Costa Rican goalkeeper Patrick Sequeira, in charge of the complicated task of replacing Keylor Navas, is having a Copa América of contrasts.

Very few referenced his name before the start of the world’s oldest national team tournament. But most knew that the Ticos were on the hunt for Navas’ substitute, who retired from the national team and is considered the best Costa Rican footballer in history.

“He’s a young guy, with a lot of potential, he can have that opportunity to consolidate himself and has the conditions to be a national team goalkeeper,” Navas, 37, without a club after leaving PSG, blessed him in a recent interview with a Costa Rican media outlet.

Custodian of UD Ibiza, from the Spanish third division, Sequeira, 25, presented himself on a high note with four saves that thwarted Brazil’s attack (0-0) of Vinicius Jr on Monday in Inglewood, Los Angeles. He was chosen as the best player of the match in his Copa América debut and in his sixth match as an international.

“I dreamed it, I imagined it. And, well, thank God it became a reality,” Sequeira told TUDN network after the debut, in which he kept his goal at zero for the fourth consecutive match, including a clash against an alternate Uruguay squad under Marcelo Bielsa.

Costly Error

His saves profiled him as a pillar of a very defensive Costa Rica – they haven’t made a single direct shot on goal in two matches – along with defenders Jeyland Mitchell, Juan Pablo Vargas, and captain Francisco Calvo.

But the fairy tale had an abrupt interruption when they encountered the unstoppable Colombia of James Rodríguez and Luis Díaz on Friday in the hot Glendale, Arizona. Although he had a solid start, saving a dangerous left-footed shot from the ’10’, he made an error in the 27th minute that broke his team’s lock.

He came out clumsily from the small area trying to contain an attack by Jhon Córdoba, who seemed controlled by Calvo. But he ended up knocking down the striker and causing a penalty, converted by Díaz for the 1-0.

“In this kind of matches, errors are paid dearly. The goalkeeper had saved us in that circumstance (James’ shot), but mistakes cannot be made,” questioned Costa Rica’s coach, Gustavo Alfaro.

After the goal from the Liverpool star came two more goals, from center-back Davinson Sánchez (59) and Córdoba (62), sealing a result that leaves the Central Americans with little chance of advancing to the quarter-finals in their sixth Copa América.

After the early qualification of the Colombians, they will fight with slim chances for the remaining ticket from Group D with the ‘Canarinha’, who crushed Paraguay 4-1 on Friday in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Another Dimension to His Career

The pass looks very unlikely for a Costa Rica that landed in the United States with the youngest squad in the tournament and the maximum objective of giving playing time to the new generation.

Alfaro repeats that in the American competition he seeks answers, and one of them is related to Sequeira’s future, who left very young from Deportivo Saprissa in San José to youth teams and third division clubs in Spain.

“He’s at a good age, but he needs to give another dimension to his career,” said the Argentine before the Cup debut, about the urgency for the goalkeeper to gain experience in higher category clubs.

Aware of the weight of replacing the former Real Madrid goalkeeper, one of the heroes of the historic participation in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where they fell in the quarter-finals, Alfaro has tried to avoid loading Sequeira and the other ‘1’ aspirants “with greater responsibilities than there are.”

“The goalkeeper issue is not a minor issue,” he maintained. “We are working on the psychological and mental part of those coming up, but they don’t have to compete with that figure because Keylor was our Messi, the most emblematic player of our national team.”

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