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World Cup: The View from Costa Rica

If the celebration at the Club Campestre de España in San Antonio de Belén, Heredia, in any way reflected last Sunday night’s party in Spain, it’s a safe bet that not much was accomplished there on Monday.

On Sunday, July 11, hundreds of red and yellow-clad Spanish fans sang, drank, ate paella and danced into the night as they celebrated Spain’s first-ever FIFA World Cup championship, a 1-0 extra time victory over the Netherlands. It was a day that Spaniards will cherish forever.

“I don’t think this was the best game we played all tournament,” said Ricardo Casero, who moved to Costa Rica from northern Spain several years ago. “But who cares. No one will remember that. They will only remember that this was the day Spain won their first ever World Cup.”

After a scoreless, thrilling first 115 minutes of play, Spanish midfielder Andrés Iniesta broke the deadlock in extra time with a right-footed blast that whizzed under the outstretched arm of Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg into the far corner. Iniesta’s goal, the biggest in the history of Spanish soccer, sent the Spanish fans at the Club Campestre into mass hysteria. Jubilant screams, song, tears and dancing erupted.

As typical in soccer, one slightly different kick or deflection could have easily seen the Dutch celebrating their first-ever World Cup championship. The opportunity that most Dutch fans and players will most lament occurred in the 62nd minute, when Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder played a pass through the defense to teammate Arjen Robben, as he barreled towards the Spanish goal. Robben, one of the world’s best players, found himself alone with Spanish keeper Iker Casillas, who met Robben nearly at the top of his 18-yard box. Robben shot to his left and, though Casillas fell the opposite way, he managed to deflect the ball with his outstretched right foot. The deflection thwarted Holland’s best chance to score.

“Casillas was an absolute hero for us in this World Cup,” said Jordi Triquell, a Spaniard who has lived in Costa Rica for eight years. “He saved us time and time again. Thank God for ‘Saint Iker’ (Casillas).”

In the tournament, the Spanish conceded only two goals in seven games. After losing their opening match to Switzerland, the Spanish won six games, including four consecutive 1-0 victories.

“When we scored, I had no idea who scored it,” Triquell said. “I didn’t know how to react. I was screaming and jumping and hugging everyone around me. Never have Spanish fans been able to enjoy a moment as marvelous as today. What a day! ¡Viva España!”


Dutch Denied Cup Title Again


When Iniesta received a pass inside the box in the 116th minute and sent it past the Dutch goalkeeper, it became another one of those moments for Holland.

Like their 1974 World Cup defeat to West Germany and their 1978 defeat to Argentina, it was one of those moments most Dutch will always remember, and will wish they could forget.

Dutch Ambassador to Costa Rica Mathijs van Bonzel said at halftime, “The Americans ask, ‘Where were you when you heard Kennedy was assassinated?’ We have something like that too. It’s hard to compare, but (The World Cup has been) a national frustration.”

In 2010, the Dutch endured that disappointment once more.

At the Jazz Café Escazú, approximately 600 fans of the Dutch team gathered in their brightest oranges Sunday to watch the “Oranje” denied another chance to be called champions.

Pregame. An ocean of orange flowed out the front door of the Dutch co-owned Jazz Café restaurant. At 10:30 a.m., two hours before kickoff, the club had reached full capacity. Dutch tourist Kees Vandenberg walked with his family around to the back of the building to watch the final on big screens with some 200 other Dutch fans who also hadn’t made it in time. Ecotourism and vibrant green jungles were the last things on Kees’ mind.

“(My wife) didn’t allow me to cancel the holiday; I wanted to stay at home,” Vandenberg said. “But now we’re OK. We’re here with all the people.”

1st minute. Titus Galema finishes off a couple bittenballen as the game kicks off. The traditional Dutch snacks of fried dough stuffed in meat and dipped in peanut sauce, along with bottles of Heineken welcomed the fans to the venue. Galema, born in The Hague and now working in Honduras, was on a business trip in Costa Rica and learned where everyone was watching the game.

“It’s incredible,” Galema said. “There’s (over) 500 people inside.”

20th minute. Holland and Spain looked even in the opening minutes, but the Dutch had one intangible going against them: the octopus. In a German aquarium, workers had set up a process that allowed Paul the Octopus to pick the winner of every World Cup game. The psychic cephalopod was 7-for-7 entering Sunday. For the championship, Paul’s talented tentacles selected Spain.

Eugenia Hernández, a Costa Rican who married a Dutch expat, had a prediction of her own for Paul: “Bullshit. We’re going to make octopus ceviche today,” Hernández said, referring to a popular seafood dish.

45th minute + 1. Costa Rican Patrik Madriz nervously squeezes an orange hat shaped like a wooden shoe. Dutch star Arjen Robben has just had a free kick rejected by goalie Iker Casillas. After 45 minutes, the game is scoreless.

62nd minute. That was it. That was there chance. Robben, on a breakaway, has his shot chipped away by Casillas’ foot to save the goal.

Wladimir Wanga stomps the ground, exasperated He’s one of dozens of fans from the Dutch territories of Curaçao and Aruba watching the game on the upper deck of the Jazz Café. His pants and face are painted red, white and blue. “Holandia” is shaved into the back of his head.

“I’ve come to every game here,” Wanga said. “There weren’t many people for the 5:30 a.m. games.”

114th minute. After 50 more minutes of weathering the Spanish attack, the cheers for Holland dissipate. Spain’s Iniesta scores six minutes before the game would’ve gone into penalty kicks.

1-0, Spain.

“We had our chances,” van Bonzel said.

Postgame. A dejected crowd of Dutch fans shuffle home. It’s raining, fittingly.

And the drops of water turn the orange T-shirts into angry shades of red.


Adam Williams reported from San Antonio de Belén, Heredia, and Matt Levin reported from Escazú. See for our World Cup multimedia report.,


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