AL RAYYAN, Qatar (Reuters) – Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz was confident the Central Americans will more than make up the numbers at their third straight World Cup and take inspiration from their historic 2014 campaign, having learnt from a disappointing outing in Russia.
Costa Rica only picked up one point four years ago but enjoyed a shock run to the quarter-finals at the previous edition in Brazil, after topping a ‘Group of Death’ that included former world champions Italy, England and Uruguay.
This year, they are in Group E with 2010 winners Spain, 2014 champions Germany and Asian powerhouses Japan and open their campaign against Spain on Wednesday.
Six members of the Costa Rica squad, all now aged 30 or over, were part of that 2014 campaign, including striker Ruiz, goalkeeper Keylor Navas and forward Joel Campbell – all of whom will be featuring at their third World Cup.
“We’ve been together for 12 years, especially the captains. We are trying to lead our group which is very strong and this strength will make us keep on qualifying for World Cups,” Ruiz, 37, told reporters on Tuesday.
“For us as a squad, our first experience was when we qualified for Brazil 2014. We almost didn’t make it… What we did was to come together in unity so strongly that we all worked together and managed to qualify for at World Cup.
“We are in this together until the end. So in Brazil we achieved great things. There were things that we could have done differently and better (in Russia). But our team is very strong… The mentality has changed, we stopped thinking small and now we dream big.”
Costa Rica’s Colombian coach Luis Fernando Suarez is a World Cup veteran himself, having managed Ecuador at the 2006 tournament and Honduras at the 2014 edition.
Suarez took over at Costa Rica last year to guide them to Qatar and will be the sixth coach in history to manage a different team at three World Cups.
“If there is an emotionally strong group that I have led, it is this,” Suarez said. “We have very experienced players who can add a lot to the youngsters, both on and off the field.
“We have had a year of total learning… this group is very strong mentally and I have a good feeling about what they can do going forward.”
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
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