Costa Rica’s national football team, known as “La Sele,” earned a valuable 0-0 draw in Mexico on Tuesday, maintaining a good chance of qualifying for the World Cup Brazil 2014.
The match, held at the the legendary Azteca Stadium, was well-played by the Ticos, although both sides missed scoring opportunities. Mexico’s national team, “El Tri,” continued to struggle, barely clinging to third place in the CONCACAF division ahead of Honduras.
Tico striker Joel Campbell had the first clear shot on goal in the third minute with a strong strike that Mexican goalkeeper Jesús Corona watched hit the right post. Corona was one of the few highlights of his team’s performance, as he managed to prevent or avoid at least three near goals by Costa Rica.
The Azteca is no longer as feared as it used to be for teams in the region, and La Sele dominated almost entirely the first half. The Costa Ricans’ aggressive first-half play was a break from past matches at the stadium, as teams from the region traditionally use overly defensive strategies at Azteca.
Rather, it was El Tri who spent most of the game waiting for opportunities to counterattack. Meanwhile, Costa Rica’s back line, played by Michael Umaña, Giancarlo González and Johnny Acosta, had a solid night guarding the Tico half of the field.
To say Mexican fans were upset would be an understatement. The first half ended with boos, jeers and whistling by the estimated 70,000 spectators. A small but lively section of Costa Ricans cheered on the performance.
By the second half, El Tri moved the lines forward, improving their offense, but they still lacked clarity. Costa Rica’s defense prevented any real danger for La Sele.
The game was delayed in the 80th minute when Mexico’s fans began throwing bottles, trash and even a soccer ball onto the field as Tico midfielder Bryan Ruiz attempted a corner kick. After Ruiz was pelted by a water bottle, the U.S. referee warned FIFA to get control of the stadium. Extra time was added to overtime play, extending the game to 97 minutes.
The last few minutes were intense, but the score remained unchanged, and Mexico and Costa Rica earned a point each to remain within a shot of classifying for the World Cup. Both teams have eight total points.
Although most Costa Rican fans were happy with a tie in Mexico, Tico goalkeeper Keylor Navas and striker Joel Campbell told local television they “were unhappy with the result” because they “deserved to beat Mexico.”
The ire of Mexican fans, meanwhile, was directed at El Tri coach José Manuel de la Torre, and the stadium filled with chants of “Fuera Chepo”!
In World Cup qualifying play, teams are expected to win at home. But Mexico has tied home matches against Jamaica, the U.S., and now, Costa Rica.
Later Tuesday night, the U.S. beat Panama 2-0 in a match in the United States that could have ended 5-0. The U.S. squad, which has looked shaky in recent games, looked superb, dominating the Panamanians who were clearly outmatched. The U.S. leads the division with 10 points.
Next Tuesday, La Sele will face Panama at Costa Rica’s National Stadium in La Sabana Park, in western San José.
MEXICO: José Corona, Francisco Rodríguez, Carlos Salcido, Pablo Barrera, Aldo De Nigris, Javier Hernández, Héctor Moreno, Héctor Herrera, Jesús Zavala, Andrés Guardado, Gerardo Flores. Substitutions: Raúl Jiménez (De Nigris), Javier Aquino (Barrera), Giovanni dos Santos (Herrera).
COSTA RICA: Keilor Navas, Johnny Acosta, Giancarlo González, Michael Umaña, Cristian Bolaños, Brian Ruiz, Michael Barrantes, Joel Campbell, Junior Diaz, Cristian Gamboa, Yeltsin Tejeda. Substitutions: Kenny Cunningham (Bolaños), Celso Borges (Barrantes), Álvaro Saborío (Campbell).