Cult heroes Costa Rica set for more success in Gold Cup Group B


Costa Rica’s sensational 2014 World Cup run may still be fresh in the minds of fans and punters, as the Central American nation prepare to contest the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, but coach Paulo Wanchope, who took over following Jorge Luis Pinto’s post-Brazil departure, wants to focus on the future.

“What was done in 2014 is in the past. This is a new process and the boys are focused on what they want: winning this cup,” said the former Manchester City and West Ham United marksman, who recently saw his side split the spoils in a warm-up friendly with tournament favourites Mexico.

Los Ticos have lifted the Gold Cup three times before, but last in 1989, so will be eager to show their fantastic form in Brazil was not a flash in the pan. A recent Copa Centroamericana crown will only have added to Costa Rica’s confidence, and they are odds-on at 8/11 to follow that up by winning Group B.

Wanchope’s spirited side are currently third-favourites at 13/2 to claim the Gold Cup, behind Central American foes Mexico (11/10) and Jurgen Klinsmann-led USA (13/8), with their hopes somewhat dented by an injury blow to keeper Keylor Navas of Real Madrid.

AZ Alkmaar stopper Esteban Alvarado is expected to take charge of the nets in Navas’ absence, while big-name stars including Mainz defensive speedster Junior Diaz, West Bromwich Albion right back Cristian Gamboa, Fulham-owned forward Bryan Ruiz and Arsenal-owned attacker Joel Campbell are still on show.

Pool B must be navigated though, and the group is not all about Costa Rica, as Canada, El Salvador and Jamaica complete the competitive collection.

The Canucks are short on quality and spark, in stark contrast to their women’s team who made it to quarter-finals of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, in which the North American nation are still playing host.

Familiar Canadian names such as West Ham United’s recent winter purchase Doneil Henry and QPR outcast Junior Hoilett, whose international allegiance remains unresolved, will not feature. However, Hapoel Haifa hitman Tosaint Ricketts will provide a goal threat, while Birmingham City-owned defender David Edgar should play a part in Canada’s quest.

Pacific Ocean outfit El Salvador, meanwhile, may be the minnows of the pool but a quarter-final finish in 2013 shows they are not without merit.

Undoubtedly Costa Rica’s biggest competition for Group B top spot is Caribbean country Jamaica, who are 12/5 to steal first place. The Reggae Boyz lost all three of their 2015 Copa America outings by a 1-0 margin, but illustrated impressive defensive discipline.

Premier League backline marshals Adrian Mariappa and Wes Morgan, of Crystal Palace and Leicester City respectively, are key to Jamaica’s organised rearguard. Championship stars Rodolph Austin (released by Leeds United) and England-born pair Simon Dawkins (Derby County) and Garath McCleary (Reading) add depth in midfield.

The Reggae Boyz’ main concerns remain in attack and their lack of potency should ensure Costa Rica sail ahead, as none of Giles Barnes, another recruit of English roots, Darren Mattocks or Allan Ottey were on target in Chile.

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