The World Cup’s most Norwegian team
If you want to cheer for a Norwegian in the World Cup, keep your eyes on Costa Rica
Norwegian American Weekly
Norway may not be taking the field in Brazil this summer, but you don’t need to pack your Norwegian flags just yet. You’ll still have the opportunity to cheer on the most Norwegian team of the World Cup: Costa Rica!
Wait a second. Costa Rica? Why is a soccer team from Central America considered to be the most Norwegian? Well, nine of the players on the team have played—or currently play—in Norway’s premiere soccer league, Tippeligaen.
“Forget Adam Larsen, Mathis Bolly, and Mikkel Diskerud. If you want to cheer for the Norwegian element, then Costa Rica is the team for you,” claims NRK.
On June 2, five of the athletes playing for Costa Rica in the warm-up friendly against Japan could be recognized from the Norwegian soccer field.
When the official team roster was announced the following day, the number of Tippeligaen veterans had increased to nine.
These nine athletes are defenders Giancarlo Gonzalez, Cristian Gamboa, and Heiner Mora, midfielders Roy Miller, Celso Borges, Christian Bolaños, Michael Barrantes, and Diego Calvo, and the forward Randall Brenes.
The Costa Rican team represents varying levels of success in Norwegian soccer—some players have become Tippeligaen heroes, but others have moved on quickly. A few have excelled in the Norwegian league and moved on to bigger clubs. Others have returned home to Costa Rica and played well enough to secure a spot on the national team.
There are three that are playing in the current Tippeligaen season: Michael Barrantes for Aalesund, Cristian Gamboa for Rosenborg, and Diego Calvo for Vålerenga.
Barrantes has played for Aalesund since 2010 and has become a star of the Tippeligaen. In his 98 games, he has scored 25 goals. He earned a position in the spotlight when he scored Aalesund’s two goals in the 2011 cup finals against Brann.
Gamboa transferred to Rosenborg in 2012 from FC København. He had, however, already played in Norway from 2010 to 2011 for Fredrikstad. Unfortunately, Gamboa is currently facing an injury, and has only played two games for Rosenborg this season. Nevertheless, he will be representing Costa Rica in Brazil.
Calvo joined Vålerenga in 2013, after leaving Alajuelense. This season, he has made it onto the field for seven of Vålerenga’s 11 games.
Still, you may wonder why so many Costa Rican soccer players would choose to leave their home to play in the chilly, northern country of Norway.
“As a network of agencies specializing in Scandinavian transfers has popped up, players from Costa Rica and Jamaica, many current or former MLS players, have moved to clubs in Scandinavia,” explains Soccer America Daily.
Giancarlo Gonzalez is one Costa Rica’s biggest stars this year. He played 25 games for Vålerenga from 2012 to 2013, transferring from his home team of Alajuelense. His success in Norway earned him a spot in the MLS, playing for Columbus Crew.
According to FIFA.com, “There can be no doubting the importance of Giancarlo Gonzalez to coach Jorge Luis Pinto’s plans. That much was clear on the road to Brazil, when the centre-half, along with Los Ticos’ star goalkeeper Keylor Navas, spent more time on the pitch than anyone.”
Costa Rica has performed well in the qualifiers, making it into the play-offs, but is facing tough competition ahead. Their success thus far has been based on a solid defense and an outstanding record at home.
Gonzales is aware of the difficulties ahead, but hopeful that Costa Rica will play well. “This is the ‘group of death.’ No one’s under any illusions about that. Our three opponents are all big teams and they’ve all won the World Cup before. But like we said, this is a whole new story. We are going to give it our very best shot, and we’re excited at the prospect of doing well in Brazil and doing our country proud,” he said.
Costa Rica will have their next game on Saturday, June 14, against Uruguay. They will then play Italy on June 20 and England on June 24. Be sure to wave your Norwegian flags!
This article originally appeared in the June 13, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.