On the night of Oct. 14, 2009, in Washington D.C., U.S. midfielder Jonathan Bornstein headed in a corner kick in the 94th minute of a game against Costa Rica to even the score of the World Cup qualifying match at 2-2. Had Costa Rica held on for 20 more seconds, they would be participating in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which begins today in Johannesburg, South Africa.
But the Ticos didn’t hold on, and Bornstein’s goal gave Honduras the final World Cup spot from the International Soccer Federation’s North and Central America and Caribbean Region (Concacaf). Bornstein was hailed as a national hero in Honduras and offered a free vacation in the Bay Islands by then-interim-President Roberto Micheletti.
As the World Cup gets underway, Bornstein’s goal haunts Costa Rica, as it will for years.
“Only God knows why it had to happen like that,” said Costa Rican defender Luis Marín a few weeks after the loss to the U.S. “I’ve never felt such pain after a game as I felt that night.”
The Ticos have made things even worse for themselves and their fans in recent weeks by proving they can compete with World Cup-caliber teams. In three international friendly matches against World Cup participants, Costa Rica beat Switzerland 1-0, narrowly fell to world power France 2-1 and were the victims of back luck, including an own-goal and a penalty kick, in a 3-0 loss at Slovakia.
“Overall, our three games here were very positive,” said midfielder Roy Myrie after the Slovakia game on Saturday. “We played very well at times and we faced some difficulties, but we learned a lot and proved to ourselves and our fans that we are still capable of competing with some of the better teams in the world.”
If only they’d qualified.
Italy 1990: Costa Rica’s World Cup triumph
Had Costa Rica qualified for the World Cup, it would have been their third consecutive appearance and their fourth qualification since 1990, which was the country’s first, and by far the most successful, World Cup showing.
In the 1990 tournament in Italy, on June 11, Costa Rica entered onto the World Cup stage in memorable fashion, beating Scotland 1-0 on a goal by Juan Cayasso in the 49th minute, forever to be remembered as a historic moment in Costa Rican soccer and national history.
For more on this story, see the June 11 print or digital edition of The Tico Times.