Some records are made to be broken, and others, well, they´re records for good reason.
The Costa Rica national men´s soccer team lost to Mexico 0-2 Saturday night at the infamous Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, ending a seven-game winning streak for La Sele in World Cup qualifiers. Conversely, the game snapped a four-game winless streak for Mexico.
The venue is one of the world´s most foreboding for visiting teams: El Tri has won 63 of the 68 qualifiers it has played in the mammoth 103,000-seat Azteca, tied four and lost one, to Costa Rica. On Saturday, La Sele were a ways away from being able to repeat that 2001 win.
Both teams were without their captains, but the Ticos seemed more affected by midfielder Walter Centeno´s absence, and struggled throughout much of the game to move the ball up the field in any concerted way.
In the 19th minute, Mexican striker Omar Bravo beat his defender to take a shot, which Tico keeper Ricardo González deflected, but wasn´t able to hold onto. Bravo followed up the shot, sending it to the back of the net for the night´s first goal.
At the beginning of the second half, U.S. referee Terry Vaughn, with whom Costa Rica has had a rough history, made a dubious call and awarded Mexico a penalty kick, after Tico Rob Myrie took down Pavel Pardo, cleanly it seemed, in the box. Pardo took the shot and scored easily.
But the merits of the call were irrelevant since that goal ultimately was not deciding. La Sele made only two shots on goal the whole game, much less a goal of their own.
“Mexico won with strength; they deserved the win,” Head Coach Rodrigo Kenton told media after the game, adding, “You have to recognize that they also were favored here in this environment and pressure.”
Fans at Ciros bar in Sabanilla expressed disappointment in Saturday´s result, but did not consider the loss fatal.
“We´ll qualify easily for the (2010) World Cup. Definitely,” said Esteban Salas, 27, who said the loss wouldn´t affect the team´s position in group standings since now Costa Rica and Mexico have both lost and won one game.
The fans were in general more considerate than the Tico press, who called the team´s play “timid,” among other things.
An estimated 5,000 Costa Ricans followed the team to Mexico City, including President Oscar Arias, who watched the game alongside Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
Also Saturday night, in the game between the 17th–ranked U.S. and 107th-ranked El Salvador, El Salvador went up 2-0, but the U.S. came back, with Frankie Hejduk scoring a goal with two minutes left to pull off the tie in San Salvador. Trinidad and Tobago tied Honduras 1-1.
Costa Rica and Mexico are now tied for second place in the North and Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) regional qualifying standings with three points, behind the U.S., which has four. Trinidad and Tobago and El Salvador both have two points, and Honduras one.
Costa Rica hosts El Salvador on Wednesday in Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in Tibás, on the north side of San José.