Brasil 2014 was the pinnacle of soccer in Costa Rica. It was the culmination of a five year project, having missed out on the World Cup in 2010. It was a thing that happened. For tiny footballing nations like Costa Rica, it will forever stand as an unmatched euphoric achievement.
For some, however, its validity is attached to Russia 2018.
This is where I come in. This is where I tell you to go fuck yourself.
Before you accuse me of creating a straw man, let me remind you that this assault on 2014 has been attempted before. Copa America Centenario — a gluttonous circle jerk U.S. soccer used to pat itself on the back — was said to be a measuring stick for CONCACAF nations entering a World Cup cycle.
Costa Rica — now two coaches removed for Jorge Luis Pinto — was focused more on 2018. New blood was being injected, a new pool being formed. Obviously, this level of experimentation was designed for the long-term, so the results didn’t follow.
People didn’t seem to understand that.
The likes of Andrew Wiebe pulled on the lazy narrative of 2014. We just weren’t as good as we were two years prior. SB Nation writers went as far as calling our performance a “fluke.” You can find that dumb fuck on Twitter @finalthrd.
Tell him I sent you.
People too lazy to understand Costa Rica’s transitional period looked to play down 2014.
Eventually, meaningful games were played. Costa Rica made light work of Panama, Haiti and Jamaica in Round 4. The Hex didn’t prove to be a struggle, either. Machillo’s long-term vision paid off with a breezy qualification campaign. It took people in the region three years to realize that 2014 wasn’t a “fluke.”
It was merely the first step in a long journey.
Fast forward to today. That bullshit narrative has reared its ugly head again.
You’ll find enough articles saying that this is the same team from 2014. Not much has changed since then. It’s basically the same starting XI from four years ago, so if we fail, it proves that Brasil was a fluke after all.
It’s easy to look for narratives when you’re too lazy to do your research.
This isn’t the same team from 2014, though. This is a new chapter.
Eleven of the 23 players Machillo took to Russia are making their World Cup debut, eight of which ply their trade overseas. That was only true for five of the 11 players that failed to make the 2018 roster.
Most of them in bum-fuck leagues around the Nordic.
To his credit, Junior Diaz was in the Bundesliga with Mainz 05.
Simply put: this World Cup version of Costa Rica is deeper and more talented than its predecessor. Unlike Pinto, Machillo doesn’t have to rely on El Chiqui Brenes coming off the bench. Dave Myrie at the World Cup was a thing that happened.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to compete consistently at the international level when that is what you have at your disposal?
I didn’t even go into the fact that Machillo is far more tactically flexible than Pinto ever was, so while you will see Costa Rica in its favored 5-4-1, you’re likely to see him adapt his tactics to the match.
We may look the same on the outside, but you might learn something if you look deeper.
Look, I get it. You’re not up to date with my tiny footballing nation. No one expects you to follow this player pool to the extent I do, but that doesn’t afford you the opportunity to denigrate us.
We earned your respect in 2014.
We’ll always celebrate it — Lord knows I still am — but that chapter’s been written. Allow this 2018 version of Costa Rica to write their own.
They exhausted themselves the last four years just for that opportunity.
It’s the least you can do.