By Danielle Lazarus
The 2012 Costa Rican national team (a)
Although it has enjoyed regional dominance as one of the top Central American teams, Costa Rica is still looking for an international breakthrough—and is hoping to find it in its first World Cup appearance in 2015. With one of the youngest teams in the World Cup this year, with no player over 30 and an average age of 21, the Ticas will not depend on its experience to find World Cup success, but instead on its skill and rising talent (1). At the very least, 2015 will be an important springboard for Costa Rica’s young talent to gain meaningful experience and prepare for the future.
Trend of Costa Rican world rankings since 2003, from FIFA (2)
2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship
The 2014 CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football) Women’s Championship Tournament, held in the United States in October 2014, featured eight teams competing for three available World Cup berths (the CONCACAF usually gets four berths, but host country Canada had already secured theirs) (3). Costa Rica had only placed one other time before in the tournament, reaching third place in 1998, and had advanced to the consolation game in 2002 and 2010 (1). In 2014, the Ticas won all three of their group stage games, beating Mexico, Jamaica, and Martinique on their way to the semifinals (3).
Group B standings from the 2014 CONCACAF Championship Tournament, from Wikipedia
The semifinal game was a nail-biter: Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago were tied at the end of regulation time 1-1, and had to win on penalty kicks to face the United States. Costa Rica made its first three penalty shots, and two stunning saves by goalkeeper Dinnia Díaz sent Costa Rica to the finals (3):
Penalties from Costa Rica’s CONCACAF semifinal match against Trinidad and Tobago, from Ameila Rueda
Unfortunately, the Ticas fell to the United States in the finals 6-0, unable to withstand Hope Solo’s iron goalkeeping and Abby Wambach’s four goals (3). Nonetheless, Costa Rica was given the Fair Play Award, midfielder Shirley Cruz Traña was named to the Tournament All-Star Team, and their second place result was enough to advance them to their first World Cup (3).
Players to Watch
Shirley Cruz Traña and Gloriana Villalobos
Cruz and Villalobos make an interesting pair for Costa Rica—the midfielders are the oldest and youngest players on the team at 29 and 15 years old, respectively (1). Villalobos will be one of the youngest players in Canada in 2015, while Cruz, though nowhere near the oldest player, is Costa Rica’s most dependable veteran, tasked with channeling the youthfulness that composes the Ticas’ national team.
Cruz has the experience to do so—she was only the second Costa Rican woman to play internationally in Europe, with French sides Lyon and currently Paris Saint-Germain (5). Cruz helped Lyon win just about every team award possible during her six years with the squad (from 2006-2012)—the Division 1 Féminine trophy six consecutive times, the Coupe de France Féminine twice, and the Woman’s Champions League twice—and is about to play for the Champions League crown again with Paris Saint-Germain against Frankfurt, to take place on May 14, 2015 (6). Cruz’s defensive skills coupled with her goalscoring ability has allowed her to take a leading role both internationally and in her 13th year with the Costa Rican national team.
Highlights of Cruz during a Champions League game against Wolfsburg in 2015, from JigsawWill
Villalobos, meanwhile, was only recently called up to the senior national team, to play in the 2014 CONCACAF Championship (7). Costa Rica hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2014, and Gloriana, at only age 14, was named captain of the Tica’s U-17 national team (8). Although Costa Rica failed to win a game in front of its home crowd, Villalobos played incredibly, putting her improvisation skills and high energy on display in front of the entire country, especially in Costa Rica’s first game against Zambia:
Villalobos’ performance earned her a spot on Costa Rica’s senior national team, while Cruz’s has been hers for years. Both players represent the opposite sides of the spectrum for the Ticas: Cruz, the established past, juxtaposed with Villalobos, who will be the long-term future for Costa Rica women’s soccer. Cruz will not once leave the field at the World Cup; and although Villalobos will not get as much playing time as her exciting style commands in Canada, look for her to enter the field to give the Ticas a needed spark during a lull. With Cruz and Villalobos bringing their own styles to the midfield line, they will ensure an exciting first World Cup for their home country.
(1) “Costa Rica Women’s National Football Team.” Wikipedia. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Costa_Rica_women%27s_national_football_team>.
(2) “The FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking – Associations – Costa Rica – Women’s – FIFA.com.”FIFA.com. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.fifa.com/fifa-world-ranking/associations/association=crc/women/index.html>.
(3) “CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying – Women.” CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Women Category. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.concacaf.com/category/world-cup-qualifying-women>.
(4) “Shirley Cruz Traña.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Cruz_Tra%C3%B1a>.
(5) “UEFA Women’s Champions League – Shirley Cruz Traña – UEFA.com.” UEFA.com. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.uefa.com/womenschampionsleague/season=2015/clubs/player=1904624/profile/index.html>.
(6) “FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014.” FIFA.com. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.fifa.com/u17womensworldcup/news/newsid=2301104/index.html>.
(7) “Gloriana Villalobos.” FIFA.com. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.fifa.com/worldfootball/statisticsandrecords/players/player=377806/>.
How to cite this article: “Costa Rican Women’s National Team” Written by Danielle Lazarus (2015), World Cup 2015, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-guides/world-cup-2015-guide/players-to-watch-at-the-2015-womens-world-cup/costa-rica/ (accessed on (date)).