Thousands of euphoric Costa Ricans jammed the streets of San José and other cities Tuesday night after their beloved national football team, “La Sele,” qualified for a trip to Brazil in 2014 to participate in World Cup finals play.
Although a match between Costa Rica and Jamaica ended in a 1-1 tie, it was enough to guarantee a spot in Brazil.
In San José, Costa Ricans flooded parks, pedestrian boulevards and central roundabouts, waving Costa Rican flags and chatting, “Oeeeeoeoeoeee, Ticooos, Ticooos,” a traditional rallying cry for Costa Rican football fans.
Horns were still blaring at 11 p.m., with caravans of cars parading around the city, keeping awake anyone who dared sleep away the event.
Some Tico fans even sported Honduran flags, after Costa Rica’s Central American colleagues from the north tied Panama 2-2, sending both the United States and Costa Rica to Brazil.
Ticos also were elated that the U.S. handed a resounding defeat to Mexico, 2-0, in a match in the Midwest. While some Costa Ricans remain miffed about the infamous March “blizzard match,” in which the U.S. beat Costa Rica 1-0 in nearly whiteout conditions, others were ready to move on.
“Everything’s all good; now we’re friends,” said La Sele fan Charly Fariseo at a local pub in central San José, referring to the recent heated rivalry between the U.S. Men’s National Team and La Sele. (Costa Rica walloped the U.S. 3-1 in an emotionally charged match last Friday at San José’s National Stadium.)
Earlier on Tuesday, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla announced that if Costa Rica – not exactly known for its moderation – qualified, public employees would be given the day off on Wednesday, ensuring that the party would extend into the early morning hours.
Local TV stations broadcast images of La Sele players closely watching the Honduras-Panama game from a locker room at Kingston’s National Stadium, in Jamaica. With the final whistle indicating a tie match, Tico players erupted in celebration.
“This is my life’s dream,” declared an emotional Jorge Luis Pinto, Costa Rica’s coach. “I’ve worked toward this with honor and dedication for many years,” he added.
The Colombia-born coach failed in his previous two attempts to lead a national team to the World Cup. In 2005, the Pinto was sacked in favor of Alexandre Guimarães before the 2006 tournament in Germany. In 2007, he coached the Colombian squad but failed to qualify. Before the Jamaica match, Pinto guaranteed this time he would be leading the La Sele to Brazil.
Thousands of kilometers away, in the U.S. state of Ohio, the U.S. men’s team also celebrated, breaking out bottles of champagne and toasting the thousands of U.S. fans who remained in the stadium following that team’s victory against Mexico.
The U.S. team again tops the Concacaf standings with 16 points, followed by Costa Rica with 15, Honduras with 11, Mexico and Panama with 8, and Jamaica with 4.
This is the fourth time La Sele has made it to the World Cup finals. The Ticos failed to qualify for the previous World Cup in South Africa in 2010, the U.S. kept them out with a last minute goal in their final qualifying match. But this time, Costa Rica did away with the suspense. For the 2014 World Cup, La Sele clinched its place in the tournament with two qualifiers remaining. And Costa Rica supporters, thrilled to return to the sport’s biggest stage, took over the streets of downtown San José for an all night party.
Concacaf Standings (W-L-D; 2 matches remain)
*United States 5-2-1 16 points
*Costa Rica 4-1-3 15 points
Honduras 3-3-2 11 points
Mexico 1-2-5 8 points
Panama 1-2-5 8 points
Jamaica 0-4-4 4 points
(* = Has qualified for the 2014 World Cup. Top 3 teams advance to World Cup; 4th team plays New Zealand for berth)