The Costa Rica Under-17 team is doing its best “La Sele” impression with a surprising run in the World Cup. After Thursday’s dramatic penalty shootout win over France, the Ticos’ youth team is now headed to the quarterfinals of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile.
Costa Rica and France, the European champion for its age group, played a scoreless 90 minutes before the Ticos’ put home all five of their penalty kicks past goalkeeper Luca Zidane, son of French football legend Zinedine Zidane. When captain Timothé Cognat missed the second penalty kick, Les Bleuets never recovered, losing 5-3 and taking an early exit from a tournament in which they entered as one of the favorites to win.
France dominated pace in the first half, almost making it 1-0 on a breakaway opportunity at the end of the half. But the resilient Ticos held strong on defense and responded with some inspired play in the second half, where they created a number of opportunities against the French. Tico captain Luís Hernández was close to making a penalty shootout unnecessary when he nearly connected on a header off a free kick in extra time.
This marks Costa Rica’s first trip to the quarterfinals of the Under-17 World Cup since 2005, when a Costa Rica team led by current La Sele star Celso Borges was ousted by eventual champion Mexico.
The Ticos will play Belgium on Monday in the quarterfinals, with a chance to meet the Mexico vs. Ecuador winner. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. Costa Rican time.