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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 30, 2014

Costa Rica's 23-man squad short on offense

Joel Campbell will have to lead the Costa Rica attack with Alvaro Saborio out injured.
Joel Campbell will have to lead the Costa Rica attack with Alvaro Saborio out injured.

Costa Rica announced their 23-man World Cup roster on Friday afternoon. The line-up features a wealth of defensive flair, but there's little reason to feel optimistic about the offense.

Defender Kendall Waston and midfielder Carlos Hernandez join Alvaro Saborio as the three players excluded from the final roster following the team's training camp.

Saborio, Costa Rica's top scorer in CONCACAF qualifying, would've led the attack in Brazil. But the team learned Thursday morning that Saborio had a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot, ruling him out of the tournament and leaving a huge hole at the forward position.

The national team flies to the United States on Saturday, and will test out the line-up in two friendlies. Costa Rica plays Japan on Monday in Tampa, then faces Ireland in Philadelphia next Friday.

Defenders
Giancarlo Gonzalez (Columbus Crew)
Jhonny Acosta (Alajuelense)
Michael Umana (Saprissa)
Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls)
Oscar Duarte (Club Brugge)
Junior Diaz (Mainz 05)
Cristian Gamboa (Rosemborg)
Heiner Mora (Saprissa)
Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew)

In a crowded field, Waston was the odd man out.

Bryan Oviedo, the one true star of the defensive unit, will miss the World Cup with a broken leg. However, all of these players are capable of frustrating Costa Rica's Group D rivals within head coach Jorge Luis Pinto's strict defensive schemes.

During qualifying, right-back Cristian Gamboa combined with Oviedo to make for a quick and proficient duo along the wings. La Sele veteran Diaz and up-and-comer Francis will compete to fill the void created by Oviedo's injury. Mora was another option there, but it looks like he'll back up Gamboa.

Giancarlo Gonzalez spent lots of time on the field during qualifying, and Pinto places a lot of trust in the Columbus Crew center-back.

Midfielders
Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa)
Jose Miguel Cubero (Herediano)
Oscar Esteban Granados (Herediano)
Celso Borges (AIK)
Michael Barrantes (Aalesund)
Christian Bolanos (FC Copenhague)
Diego Calvo (Valerenga)
Brian Ruiz (PSV Eindhoven)

Though Hernandez flew in from New Zealand for a shot with La Sele, he entered camp on the outside looking in.

Team captain Bryan Ruiz -- an established forward in Europe -- becomes a roaming midfielder in Pinto's line-up. Ruiz is a cerebral player, with the instincts to know when to help out with the attack. He's coming off a strong season with PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Ruiz also should be playing with a chip on his shoulder after being cast out by Fulham, which loaned him to the Dutch club in January.

Central midfielder Celso Borges -- the son of Alexandre Guimaraes, the Brazilian coach who took Costa Rica to the World Cup in 2002 and 2006 -- has been locked into a starting role with the Ticos for some time. He's creative with the ball, and has a powerful shot.

Yeltsin Tejeda is the one player from Costa Rica's national league who seems a sure starter. He deserves it, last week he was named the country's player of the year while leading Saprissa to a league title.

Speedy Christian Bolanos and defender Michael Umana are the only two players on the roster who made the team the last time Costa Rica went to the World Cup in Germany 2006 (Saborio also was there).

Forwards
Joel Campbell (Olympiacos)
Randall Brenes (Cartagines)
Marco Urena (Kuban Krasnodar)

Well, this looks bad. Losing Saborio cost Costa Rica half of their playbook. The offense must run through gifted 21-year-old Campbell.

Saborio, 32, provided the power, experience and leadership on the attack. He was a strong player who could take the ball from the midfield to the goal. He drew defenders, which freed up teammates (Saborio had five assists in qualifying in addition to his eight goals).

On the other hand, Campbell is a speed and finesse player who can create his own scoring opportunities.

Saborio and Campbell were perfect counterbalances for one another. Who knows how much Pinto even trusts Urena and Brenes. Will he use them much or rely on his midfielders to join Campbell on the attack? Urena barely received playing time with his Russian club this season, while Brenes is a great local player that never seems to impress with La Sele. One of those players likely would've been cut if Saborio hadn't been hurt.

The current situation places a lot of pressure on Costa Rica's youngest player. Anyone who saw Campbell's recent golazo against Manchester United knows he's capable of some magical moments.

Goalkeepers
Keylor Navas (Levante)
Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense)
Daniel Cambronero (Herediano)

Not much to say here. Navas was a breakout star in La Liga last season. Pemberton, once a starter for La Sele, has a reputation for weak showings in international play (see: the Chile friendly in January). Cambronero has barely any international experience at all.

Navas must continue his ascend to stardom if Costa Rica is to have any chance in this group.

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