- Costa Rica aiming for one of the region’s 3.5 berths at France 2019
- CONCACAF qualifiers to run from 4-17 October
- “The dream is still alive,” says Gloriana Villalobos
At 19 years of age, you might expect Gloriana Villalobos to be focused on doing well with the national U-20 team and her college football side at Florida State University. However, such has been the career and achievements of the Costa Rican teen, that many already consider her a standard bearer in the senior team as they head into the CONCACAF qualifiers for the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™.
So, is she feeling the pressure? “No, not at all. Representing Costa Rica is a motivation for me. You always try to do your best for your country, and that attitude has taken me to places I never thought I’d be to,” she told FIFA.com.
Her footballing journey began at an early age with a dazzling performance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Costa Rica 2014. “I never imagined that my debut would be that way. I was just a 14-year-old girl. Shortly afterwards I went to the U-20 World Cup and in 2015 to the senior World Cup, where I shared a dressing room with players I greatly admired.
“It was truly a great experience to be with them. It showed me how nice the environment is in football and how a group can become like a family. What we did was very good and now that is motivating us ahead of these qualifiers for France.”
Looking to the future
Villalobos is well aware that she still has a long way to go in the world of football, with the next obstacle being the qualifying event for the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone. But how has the player changed since Canada 2015?
“Many things have changed, not only regarding my ability on the pitch, but also in terms of my development as a person and a player. In the United States, I’ve improved a lot physically; it's smarter football and, like all major leagues, the pace is a lot faster.”
All that enhanced awareness will now be at the disposal of Costa Rica, a team whose main virtues are unity and sacrifice.
“I’ve always said that one of the strengths of this team is that we’ve been together for a long time – some players for more than ten years. We’re a family. There are people who do not see that that as a strength, but I do.
"A team as united as that is more difficult to beat than another where the members are merely team-mates. Many of them have also grown up in homes where they sometimes had to go without even food, so they know that things don’t come easy and what it is to fight for what you want.”
Villalobos in brief
- Born in San Jose, Costa Rica, on 20 August 1999
- Team: Florida State University
- Her twin brother Mauricio is also a footballer
Costa Rica can count on a lot of support in their quest for a ticket to France, including that of Deyna Castellanos, a great friend of Villalobos whose own Venezuela side came up short in the South American qualifiers.
“You always wish the best to the people you love, even though we both know that sometimes things don’t turn out as you hope. I gave her my support because it's hard when you fail to qualify for a World Cup. And now she’s let me know that we in Costa Rica have her backing.”
The stage is now set for qualifiers to begin on 4 October, and Villalobos and her team-mates will be going all out for success. “The dream is the same, it's still intact. Whenever you go into a qualifying event, a dream is at stake. This team has a generation of players who’ve been the nucleus of the side for many years, and for many this could be their last chance. Therefore, it’d be an honour to reach another World Cup with them,” she concluded.