Costa Rica swallowed a tough pill Saturday night as the men´s national soccer team, affectionately called La Sele, lost 0-1 to Uruguay, making it nearly impossible for them to qualify for the World Cup.
The game was the first of two matches Costa Rica must play against “los charrúas” – the Uruguayan national team. Only one of the teams will go on to play in the World Cup in South Africa next summer.
Both Costa Rica and Uruguay failed to qualify during the initial qualifying rounds, and are playing off for the last spot in the Americas. Costa Rica, which competes in the North and Central American region known as CONCACAF, came in fourth place at the end of the general qualifying round. Uruguay, which competes in South America´s CONMEBOL region, finished in fifth place.
The final match is scheduled for Wednesday and will be an uphill battle for the Ticos, as it will take place on Uruguayan turf, a notoriously difficult pitch. La Sele must win in order to have a chance at competing in South Africa next year.
Uruguayan head coach, Oscar “Washington” Tabárez, said after the game, “With all due respect, Costa Rica will need to accomplish a rare feat.” And he´s right: Uruguay lost only two out of nine home games during World Cup qualifying.
Perhaps making the challenge even more difficult is the fact that Uruguay did not qualify for the Germany World Cup in 2006. On Wednesday, they will be hungrier than ever.
While there is no doubt the Ticos will need nothing short of a brilliant performance next Wednesday, there´s still a chance La Sele can come out on top. Costa Rica created a few dangerous attacking opportunities in the second half, even with a man down.
Randall Azofeifa, a Costa Rican midfielder, was ejected from the game on Saturday, when he received his second yellow card in the 51st minute of play. After the Uruguayan goal in the 21st minute, the game remained scoreless.
The game on Wednesday begins at 5 p.m. (local time) at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo.