Star striker Álvaro Saborío opened the scoring in his first game back with La Sele after missing the World Cup due to a broken bone in his right foot. His goal four minutes into the match helped Costa Rica hold off Oman 4-3 at the Sultan Qaboos Sport Complex in Sohar, Oman on Friday morning.
Thanks to goals by Saborío, John Jairo Ruiz, Juan Bustos Golobio and David Ramírez, Costa Rica led 4-1 at one point. But the vaunted defense the Ticos had under their World Cup coach Jorge Luis Pinto, looked vulnerable and sloppy with interim coach Paolo Wanchope in charge. The Ticos, ranked 16th in the world, allowed more goals to 76th-ranked Oman than they did during the entire World Cup (two goals allowed in five matches).
The majority of the line-up featured players who participated in Costa Rica’s historic run to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. However, La Sele sat its talisman Keylor Navas in goal — giving Esteban Alvarado his first start with Costa Rica in almost three years. The poor defense combined with Alvarado’s rust allowed Oman to get back in the match and almost tie it up late.
The goalie received a yellow card just outside the box as time expired that gave Oman one last free kick to tie the match. The shot sailed high, and Costa Rica eked out the victory. La Sele remains undefeated in regulation play in the country’s last 10 matches (the Ticos lost in the quarterfinals to the Netherlands in penalty kicks).
The attack benefited from the return of Saborío, who broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot two weeks before the start of the World Cup. He is Costa Rica’s third all-time leading scorer in international play. Alvarado returned from an even longer absence. He was suspended by the Costa Rican Football Federation at the end of 2011 after he abandoned the team before a friendly. The talented keeper only recently has earned his way back onto the national team roster.
Navas will start La Sele’s next match when the team wraps up its two-game Asia tour against South Korea in Seoul on Tuesday.
LA SELE GOALS
Álvaro Saborío (4 min.)
John Jairo Ruiz (45+2)
Juan Bustos Golobio (47)
David Ramírez (50)