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01 Jul 2015
Goals and glory the aim for Costa Rica’s Pacheco
The CONCACAF Runners-up have put in the hard work and will rely on their stars to try and reach World Cup fame
If you had to analogise the relationship between Costa Rica coach Franklin Zuniga and his versatile pivot Greivin Pacheco, it might be that the former puts in crosses from Costa Rica for the latter to smash home from his base in the United States. More to the point, though, it helps illustrate how Los Ticos’ national coach Zuniga has helped keep main goal threat Pacheco fit and sharp ahead of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015.
The wide player is one of only three remaining members of the Costa Rica squad that made history by qualifying for Dubai 2009, the nation’s first and – prior to Portugal 2015 – only appearance at the Beach Soccer World Cup. And though he had quickly proved himself an influential performer in the Tico set-up, in 2010 Pacheco made the decision to put his long-term career prospects first and headed to California to work and study.
The move did not cost him his place in a national squad then under the guidance of Cristian Ovares, but it was after the appointment of Zuniga in April 2012 that Pacheco’s prospects began to rapidly improve. “The boss called me a few months before the championship in Bahamas, which was the [CONCACAF] qualifying event for Tahiti 2013, and told me he wanted me to be a part of the process,” the 28-year-old, who gave up the 11-a-side game at 17 after fracturing his tibia and fibula, told FIFA.com.
“When I told him that I couldn’t leave the United States, he replied ‘In that case, I’ll send you some drills, you do them, and when you get here you prove to me that you’re fit enough’. That’s how I started distance training,” continued Pacheco, the only foreign-based member of this Costa Rica squad. “The boss sends me emails going over the drills that my team-mates do, sometimes including video footage.
“I then go to a beach volleyball court, taking with me whatever equipment I need to do the exercises, and I go through them. I film myself training and send them back to him, so he can see what kind of shape I’m in and also correct me if I go wrong. The small details can make all the difference and so far it’s worked for us!”
Maturing individually and as a group
A gifted attacking or holding midfielder during his 11-a-side playing days, Pacheco was first introduced to beach soccer by his brother in 2008. Underlying his progression under Zuniga, at the aforementioned qualifying tournament in Bahamas he struck no fewer than 12 goals, which were unfortunately not enough to secure Costa Rica’s spot at Tahiti 2013.
The 11 he fired at this year’s CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship would have a quite different flavour, however, particularly as his tally included the clinching goal in Los Ticos’ 2-1 semi-final win over hosts and bête noire El Salvador, a victory that stamped their ticket to Portugal 2015.
“It’s a success we’re still savouring because, as well as our place at the finals, it’s given us a confidence boost for the challenge ahead,” said Pacheco, focusing on the positives of a tournament that ended, with qualification already in the bag, in a 4-0 final defeat by Mexico. “We’ve learned how to be more patient. Before we’d be desperately trying to score goals and get frustrated if we couldn’t, instead of understanding that you have to pick your moments. Now we know that beach soccer is a game of different phases: you need to know when to pressurise, when to sit back, when to defend, when to attack… And going into the World Cup we’ll need to be even more disciplined tactically.”
Well-versed at getting his message across, Pacheco is currently combining his Kinesiology studies with a role teaching football to Californian youngsters, between the ages of 15 and 18, as well as being the assistant coach of a university 11-a-side team. What's more, he is a regular guest participant at beach soccer tournaments and, should everything go to plan, he is on course to join the ranks of Portuguese club side CD Nacional.
Yet his most immediate mission on Portuguese soil will be the World Cup, where Costa Rica have been drawn in Group B with Italy, Switzerland and Oman. “It’s difficult but not impossible. We don’t want to go over there just being happy to take part again. We need to aim to make history, like the [senior 11-a-side] national team did last year in Brazil. They’re an inspiration to us,” said Pacheco, who revealed that Tico superstars Keylor Navas and Bryan Ruiz called to wish their countrymen luck prior to the vital qualifying duel with El Salvador.
“I’m convinced we can have a good World Cup,” said Pacheco, speaking to us from the Costa Rican capital San Jose, where the squad and staff are gathering ahead of the trip to Portugal. “And on an individual note, all the work that I’ve put in so far gives me the right to dream of contesting the top scorers’ award, something I just missed out on at the last two qualifying tournaments. If I manage that, it’d show that all the effort has paid off.”