A new year, a new coach and a new crop of players didn’t merit new results for the Costa Rican national soccer team on Tuesday night, as the Ticos fell 3-2 against Argentina in an international friendly match in San Juan, Argentina.
Despite the result, La Sele, the nickname of the Costa Rican team, can extract some positives from the first match of the year, which will undoubtedly be considered a rebuilding year for the team in the wake of the failure last year to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Fielding a team of younger players, several of whom have never played for the national team, the new-look Ticos allowed a 79th minute goal to Argentine forward Franco Jara to give Argentina the 3-2 win. Costa Rica had tied the game in the 76th minute on a goal by 20-year-old forward Diego Madrigal and, after falling behind in the 79th minute, the team failed to take advantage of several opportunities to tie the game in the final 10 minutes..
Argentina entered the game ranked 8th in the world in the FIFA international soccer rankings.
“We demonstrated to our country that there is quality here,” said forward Diego Estrada. “We played … without fear. That is the idea of this team, which is the one coach (Ronald) González has instilled in us. Towards the end we controlled them on their home field and were unlucky not to get the tie.”
This loss for La Sele, unlike some of the crucial defeats of 2009, carries little significance for the team. During the next few months, the Ticos will play several international friendly matches, such as that against Argentina, which will serve as tune-up games for teams participating in the 2010 World Cup. Though Costa Rica won’t be vying for a World Cup slot, the upcoming games against Chile, France and Switzerland (all World Cup qualifying teams) will help forge the next crop of Tico national team players.
González, the former coach of the under-20 national team, likely will experiment with a mix of young players and veterans, as he did Tuesday night, to try to find a formula that will lead Costa Rica into a new era.
“The personality of this team fills me with hope,” said González, who took over as interim head coach in November of last year. “What interests me the most is the competitive growth of some of the younger guys. Starting now, the next stage of Costa Rican soccer has a bright future.”
Aside from the handful of international friendly matches in the upcoming months, the next round of games for La Sele will be in 2011, when Costa Rica will play qualifying games for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The Women’s Side
The women’s under-20 team played the United States women’s U-20 team Thursday in the semifinals of the North and Central American (CONCACAF) championships in Guatemala. The other semifinal game pitted Canada against Mexico.
The finals will be tomorrow (Saturday), and both finalists will earn a spot in the 2010 U-20 Women’s World Cup in November in Germany. The two losing teams will compete for third place on Saturday. The winner of this game also will also earn a spot in the competition in Germany late this year.