Few players at the 2022 World Cup have more experience on the big stage than Keylor Navas. The 35-year-old Costa Rican goalkeeper has played in eight Word Cup games — including a quarterfinal — and started in the Champions League final four times for two different teams.
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He was victorious on three of the four occasions, winning the competition three consecutive seasons with Real Madrid. Navas also won La Liga during his time in Spain and has captured two Ligue 1 titles since moving to Paris Saint-Germain in 2019.
Thanks in no small part to his performance in net during qualifying, Costa Rica is making a third straight appearance at the men’s World Cup. Los Ticos finished fourth in Concacaf qualifying behind Canada, Mexico and the United States, which sent them to the inter-confederation playoff against New Zealand in June. Navas kept a clean sheet to preserve a 1-0 victory that sent his country to Qatar.
He arrived at Real Madrid in 2014 from fellow Spanish club Levante and was with the team for five seasons, three of which he spent as the regular starter. After joining PSG, Navas said he felt God leading him away from Real Madrid.
Navas made more than 20 league starts in each of his first three seasons with the French powerhouse and now serves as the club’s backup goalkeeper. He has yet to make an appearance at the club level this season.
“In the end I can’t hide the fact that I would’ve liked to see some playing time before the start of the World Cup, but now that I am here it is extra motivation for me,” Navas recently told AS. “Obviously I don’t like being a backup, but I have to keep working because life puts you in situations like this sometimes. So you only have two options: work harder or give up.”
He has learned through his faith journey how to keep his career in perspective and not get weighed down by difficult circumstances.
“Football is a blessing from God, but it does not have to be the most important thing in my life,” Navas said in 2018 (translated from Spanish). “Since I accepted Christ into my heart, my greatest goal is to achieve eternal life and to be able to be with Him. Christ helps me to see things from a point of view where one begins to understand that there are things that do not have to affect us. Christ gives me wisdom, a calm mind and a strong heart to fight in difficult moments, and in times of blessing and happiness not to go crazy, to have my feet on the ground and to be humble.”
In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Navas explained that he’s had faith in God since he was young but did not know what it meant to have a personal relationship with God. When he began to establish that personal relationship, Navas told El Mundo it “changed [his] life” and “filled the void in [his] heart.”
Navas regularly mentions his faith on social media and thanked God in a tweet after arriving in Qatar.
Gracias a Dios por fin llegué.
Muy feliz e ilusionado por esta oportunidad!
Pura vida!!! pic.twitter.com/0ATAAHrTXQ
— Keylor Navas (@NavasKeylor) November 15, 2022
As he begins another World Cup journey, Navas is keeping God at the center of everything he does.
“My faith is the most important thing,” he said in the interview with El Mundo. “I believe that, the moment I had a very personal relationship with God and I really knew what His Word said, it was not about religion. It was about knowing that what the Bible tells us is what He has left us.”
Costa Rica faces Spain in its first game at 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday. Japan and Germany are the other two teams in Costa Rica’s group.
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