For strikers the world over, there can be no sweeter period in their professional career than a notable ‘hot streak’, when goals seem to flow like water. Costa Rica front-man Alvaro Saborio is enjoying one such purple patch at international level, with his composure, intelligence and clinical finishing all helping to fire Los Ticos’ fans’ dreams of securing a place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
Not that hitting his current heights has been an easy ride, with the events of 18 November 2009 still painfully fresh in his mind. During that day’s Intercontinental play-off second leg against Uruguay, a crucial miss from Saborio played a part in Costa Rica only managing a 1-1 draw, allowing La Celeste to secure a 2-1 aggregate triumph and the final berth at South Africa 2010.
“That day hit me pretty hard,” the 30-year-old told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “I had to try and forget the chance that came my way and I couldn’t take. It was very difficult to get over and I felt pretty low for a good while. But later, thanks to the turns that life and football take, I managed to put it behind me.”
Part of that process came about with his 2010 signing for MLS outfit Real Salt Lake, where he still plies his trade. It was with the Royals that Saborio began to rebuild his damaged confidence and get back among the goals, to the extent that he is now the club’s 53-goal all-time top scorer.
“I just had to keep working hard and overcome the obstacles in my path,” explained Saborio, who hails from the city of San Carlos. “I didn’t pay attention to all the people who were making a big deal out of the game against Uruguay. I had a good long look at myself and I realised that, if I wanted to keep moving forward, I had to stop thinking about negative things that had happened in the past and focus on a positive future ahead.
“And now I’m enjoying one of the best periods of my career,” continued the forward, a veteran of Costa Rica’s trip to Germany 2006. “Every time I play I try to help my team and my national side by scoring goals. I’ve been in the game a long time, so I play with a bit more composure now and I take a different view of things.”
Having now struck a total of 16 goals in FIFA World Cup qualifying action, Saborio is just five behind the record currently held by former Tico icon Paulo Wanchope. “I don’t feel I’m under obligation to break the record,” said Saborio, the leading scorer in North, Central America and Caribbean Zone qualifying for Brazil 2014 with seven goals. “I always aim to help the team out by scoring goals, so if I can do that the record will follow. However, the only thing that matters to me is qualification.”
One step at a time
“First of all we have to focus on [our next game away to] USA [on 22 March], which will be a tough match,” continued the player, when quizzed on his hopes for Round 4 of CONCACAF qualifying, known as the Hexagonal Final.
“Let’s hope we can play like we’ve done in the past and get a positive result, something we did [in a 1-0 friendly win on 2 September 2011] in Carson, California. We know that we have to give everything for 90-plus minutes if we want to pick up any points.
“Neither Mexico or USA got off to the best of starts in the Hexagonal, which proves just how tight it’s going to be,” continued Saborio on the qualifying path ahead. “Nobody is going to give anything away for free and I think it’s going to be a very hard-fought final phase.
“It’s a more competitive zone now since more of the region’s players have moved to Europe,” added the former Saprissa forward, who scored twice in three appearances for El Monstruo Morado at the FIFA Club World Cup 2005. “We’ve now got well-known players all over the world, and I think that all helps to raise standards in the Hexagonal and CONCACAF as a whole. In the long term, it benefits us all.”
And despite his determination not to get ahead of himself, Saborio firmly believes in Costa Rica’s chances of getting back to the FIFA World Cup: “In Panama we were trailing [2-0] early on and we showed [by going on to claim a 2-2 draw] that we’ve got enough quality to overcome adversity. That’s when we realised we’ve got what it takes to reach the World Cup.”