Costa Rica’s national football team, known as “La Sele,” won its last match of the year with a nail-biting victory over Uruguay in a penalty shootout Thursday night following an action-packed 3-3 draw in a friendly at Montevideo’s Centenario Stadium.
Both teams were getting back into shape during an international break for several European teams. But for Uruguay, Thursday’s match was a chance for payback after Costa Rica’s 3-1 win during the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Revenge can be sweet, but it’s also elusive.
Real Salt Lake striker Álvaro Saborío’s return to La Sele after missing the World Cup due to an injury just a few days before the opening in Brazil, came at the right time for Costa Rica. “Sabo,” one of Costa Rica’s all-time leading goal-makers, opened the scoring for La Sele in the 41st minute. It was a product of the team’s second clear attack play.
But four minutes into the second half, Uruguayan (and Barcelona) star Luis Suárez scored an equalizer after Junior Díaz slacked on defense. Costa Rica’s star keeper, Keylor Navas, wasn’t able to stop the shot that came after a strong cross.
One minute later, Costa Rican captain Bryan Ruiz gave his team the advantage again following a cross pass on a one-two play by Joel Campbell and Álvaro Saborío.
Uruguay charged back, speeding up the game by scoring two goals in just three minutes, with José Giménez knocking one in at the 64th minute, and Edinson Cavani following in the 66th minute. The South Americans looked well on their way to winning.
Yet just when Uruguayan fans began victory celebrations, Costa Rica’s Saborío worked the ball in front of the area, and with a soft header, fed Johan Venegas for the tying goal a minute and a half into extra time.
In penalty kicks, it looked as if Costa Rica would lose again, but a last-shot stop by Navas saved the day, sending it into a sudden-death shootout.
Costa Rica won the shootout at 7-6. The series had some intense moments, including the aforementioned great save by Navas, a moon-shot by Uruguay’s Pereira, and Christian Gamboa’s silencing of Montevideo’s Centenario Stadium with the winning goal.
The victory was Paulo César Wanchope’s final match as La Sele’s coach. “Chope,” who was assistant coach at Brazil’s World Cup, took over the team after the resignation of ex-coach Jorge Luis Pinto. Next year, Costa Rica’s Football Federation will hire a new coach to take La Sele to the next World Cup in Russia in 2018.
Uruguay 3 – 3 Costa Rica (6-7 in penalties)
Uruguay: Fernando Muslera, José María Giménez, Diego Godín, Álvaro Pereira, Cristian Rodríguez (Gastón Ramírez, 80′), Luis Suárez, Nicolás Lodeiro (Guzmán Pereira, 68′), Maximiliano Pereira, Egidio Arévalo Ríos, Carlos Sánchez (Mathías Corujo, 80′) and Edinson Cavani (Jonathan Rodríguez, 70′) Coach: Oscar Tabárez.
Costa Rica: Keylor Navas, Cristian Gamboa, Giancarlo González, Óscar Duarte, Júnior Díaz, Yeltsin Tejeda (Juan Bustos Golobio, 78′), Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz, David Ramírez (Johan Venegas, 58′), Álvaro Saborío and Joel Campbell (Mayron George, 85′). Coach: Paulo César Wanchope.
0-1 Álvaro Saborío (41′)
1-1 Luis Suárez (50′)
1-2 Bryan Ruiz (51′)
2-2 José María Giménez (63′)
3-2 Edinson Cavani (67′)
3-3 Johan Venegas (91′)