Jorge Luis Pinto declared starting forward Álvaro Saborío out of the World Cup, his voice quavering on those final words — “out of the World Cup.”
X-rays confirmed Saborío broke his fifth metatarsal in his right foot Thursday. During a special press conference held in the afternoon at team headquarters Proyecto Goal in Belén, officials accepted that one of La Sele’s biggest scoring threats would not be going to Brazil.
“We will look toward the future.” Pinto said. “We hurt for him; he’s an extraordinary man.”
Saborío will need approximately three months to recover from the injury. He led The Ticos in qualifying with eight goals and five assists, and is the third all-time leading scorer for La Sele. He had made 93 international appearances, including two appearances as a sub in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Team doctors, who joined Pinto at the press conference, said broken fifth metatarsals are common in the sport, and the injury that requires patience.
“It’s not a complicated fracture,” said orthopedist Vladimir Badilla. “But the problem will be his recovery time.”
The news was a depressing bookend to a wild week for Saborío. He left training camp last week — receiving special permission from Pinto to do so — to be with his wife who was giving birth to the couple’s first child. After he returned, the 32-year-old clarified rumors that he planned to retire after the World Cup. Later, the pain in his foot revealed he wouldn’t be going to there anyway.
He had a contentious relationship with Costa Rican fans following some disappointing showings with La Sele in years past. But his recent years with Real Salt Lake, of the U.S.’s Major League Soccer, he showcased how prolific he could be as Saborío became the club’s all-time leading scorer.
The news came with just two days remaining in Costa Rica’s pre-World Cup training camp. And Pinto will be hard-pressed to find an adequate replacement to lead the team’s attack alongside 21-year-old prodigy Joel Campbell.
The team invited 26 players to the game and planned to cut three on Saturday to make up the final roster for Brazil. However, Pinto already has decided that he won’t bring any new players into the camp to replace Saborío. Instead Saborío will be one of the three cuts, with two more come this weekend.
Randall “Chiqui” Brenes and Marco Ureña will be the two top options to replace Saborío.
“I hope that we can replace his football talent,” he said. “But it’s not going to be easy.”