Francisco Calvo has every right to brag.
As a professional, Calvo makes his living playing in the United States for Minnesota United in Major League Soccer. He’s one of the bright young stars that migrated from Central America to join the ranks of MLS.
And he’s Costa Rican , which for this World Cup has provided him a position of power over his American teammates in the MLS, even if it’s just in jest.
“I’m kidding with some of the guys. I’m making fun of them because the USA is not in the World Cup,” Calvo said. “But they always like to support when I go to the national team.”
Four years ago, Costa Rica was the surprise of the World Cup, making a memorable and impressive run to the quarterfinals before falling to the Netherlands in a penalty shootout loss. The effort allowed the Ticos to quickly forget the disappointment of not qualifying for the 2010 tournament and, more importantly, changed the perception for what the Costa Rica team should be going forward.
Just qualifying in no longer enough for the Ticos. And with another deep run in this tournament, Costa Rica — a country of about 5 million — could establish itself as arguably the second-best federation in CONCACAF with the United States sitting out.
As Calvo noted, “Futbol is everything in Costa Rica.” Except now there are expectations unlike anything that have come before in the nation’s four previous World Cup appearances.
“When the national team wins the country is happy. When we lose the country is not happy,” Calvo said. “You cannot imagine what it was like after Brazil when the guys come back from the World Cup.”
Ah yes. Four years ago when Costa Rica announced itself as more than just the “other” country from CONCACAF aside from the U.S. and Mexico. The Costa Ricans topped one of the toughest groups in Brazil, beating Uruguay and Italy before a draw with England after already ensuring advancement. They beat Greece on penalties in the Round of 16 and nearly earned a spot in the semis, seeing their dream run fall short in penalties after a scoreless quarterfinal against the Dutch.
Still, they were one of the feel-good stories of the tournament.
“We have gained more expectations from other countries, other countries know Costa Rica now,” defender Kendall Waston said. “Before they say ‘Costa Rica, where’s that?’ Now they know.”
And there lies the issue for the Costa …read more