The Costa Rican under-20 national soccer team is proving that despite the dark clouds hanging over the chances of the men’s national team to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, the next generation of Costa Rican soccer looks bright.
The team beat Egypt 2-0 Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2009 U-20 World Cup. The qualification for the quarterfinals is the furthest the Costa Rican U-20 has ever advanced in the World Cup. This year’s edition is being played in Egypt.
“We have a very close group on this team,” Costa Rica coach Ronald González said after the game. “Most of them have played together for about two years. When games get tight or close, the guys trust each other. I think that’s what helped them hold on for the win today.”
As the game neared its close, Egypt pushed more players forward, leaving themselves bare for a Costa Rican counter-attack. And in the 88th minute, the Ticos capitalized. After a nifty move to beat one Egyptian defender, midfielder Diego Estrada slipped a pass to forward Marco Ureña, who struck a first-time blast into the opposite corner of the net to seal the win for the Ticos.
As the Ticos celebrated their unlikely win, dejected Egyptian players and fans remained in the stadium, some with their heads intheir hands, some in tears, mourning the team’s lost opportunity to achieve greater success in their home-country World Cup.
Costa Rica will play the United Arab Emirates in the quarterfinals on Saturday at noon (Costa Rican time). The Emirates beat Venezuala 2-1 on Wednesday.