CONCACAF has ramped up security for Friday’s 2014 World Cup qualifier between Costa Rica and the United States, with Tico fans still irked by the “Snow Bowl” won by the U.S. in Denver in March.
Guatemalan Mario Monterrosa, the CONCACAF designated official for the contest, said the history between the teams had prompted football’s regional governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean to label the match “high risk.”
More than 500 police will be on security duty at the National Stadium and throughout the city, with a command post set up at the venue and other precautions taken such as ensuring a maximum number of entrances and exits.
There’s plenty at stake in the match due to kick off at 8 p.m., with the United States holding a two-point lead over Costa Rica atop the six-nation CONCACAF qualifying table. The top three countries advance directly to the World Cup finals in Brazil, while the fourth-place team will battle New Zealand for a berth.
The United States has never won a qualifier in Costa Rica, and the locals especially want to keep it that way after the U.S.’ 1-0 triumph in Denver, a match played in a blizzard that Costa Rica argued bitterly should be stopped.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said he realized many in Costa Rica remained angry about that match, but said it was unfair to take it out on his team.
“That was not our fault,” the German said this week as the extent of Costa Rican feeling on the subject became clear. “I didn’t call God to give us some snow.”
Nevertheless, the U.S. Men’s National Team has endured a rough welcome in San José. Rather than being fast-tracked through immigration and customs they received no special treatment upon arriving at the airport, where jeering fans pelted their bus with a few eggs.
Further efforts to unsettle the visitors were orchestrated via social media, with one Facebook group sending supporters to “serenade” the U.S. players at their hotel Thursday night in the time-honored method of preventing them from sleeping. They also planned to clog the streets of San José to delay the team’s arrival at the match.
Whether the usual police escort to the stadium materializes remains to be seen. U.S. media traveling with the team reported that the three potential training sites suggested by the Costa Rican football federation declined to host them, and that game balls requested for training sessions were never delivered. In an eight-minute TV segment Thursday night, Keith Olbermann blasted the Costa Rican’s treatment of the U.S. team, accusing the Ticos of “having no balls.”
At least the U.S. won’t have to go into the lion’s den of the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium, Costa Rica having abandoned its bid to hold the match at the antiquated venue – where the steep stands offer visiting players an intimidating vista of hostile fans.
While some irate supporters were suggesting demonstrations at the match itself, Klinsmann insisted that come Friday, it would be all about football.
“It would be a tough game no matter what,” he said. “I don’t think the players down on the field will think about the snow game in March. It’s going to be a totally different situation and environment and we expect a really difficult challenge.”