Costa Rica prevented Canada from celebrating an early entry to the Qatar 2022 World Cup and took over 4th place in the CONCACAF round of 16 with a 1-0 win on Thursday at the National Stadium in San Jose.
The match was the 12th of the qualifying rounds, with only two rounds remaining.
Midfielder Celso Borges scored the only goal (45+1), which gave 3 priceless points to Costa Rica, which now has 19 points and sits in a spot that will allow a playoff against the champion of Oceania, much to the detriment of Panama who has 18 points.
Canada, meanwhile, will have to wait until Sunday, when they host Jamaica to try to get the point they need to secure their spot in their second World Cup and their first since Mexico in1986.
The top three spots are still in the hands of Canada, with 25 points, the United States, with 22, and Mexico, also with 22.
Playing with a Sense of Urgency
The Costa Ricans, aware of their place in the standings, went all out on the offensive from the very first minute. And they did so with real abandon, unlike in most of their matches throughout the tournament.
The Ticos put intense pressure on the Canadians, recovering balls near the Canadian area and harassing Milan Borjan’s goal. When Canada began to settle down and get into the rhythm of the game, the National Stadium, which was full for the first time during the entire qualifying rounds due to Covid restrictions, was starting to get unsettled.
That was until midfielder Mark Anthony Kaye, who was making it difficult for the Costa Ricans in the middle of the field, was red carded because of his “accidental” collision with Johan Venegas at the 35th minute which after 10 minutes of pushing and shoving, got La ‘Sele’ and the stadium back into the game.
At minute 45+1, Borges won a floater cross from Gerson Torres from the right to put Costa Rica, giving hope for a trip to the World Cup in Qatar, something that just a few days ago, seemed very far away.
Keylor Comes Through – Again
In the second half, Costa Rica had a few more minutes of success, until Canada, who seemingly forget they were a man down, regained possession and pounced on their opponent.
The Canadians ended up really running roughshod over Costa Rica, but then the stable local defensive zone came to the rescue, which has now gone 4 games without conceding a goal and is the second best in the octogonal.
Of course, goalie Keylor Navas saved his team on multiple occasions and his luck even extended to the goal posts, where Canada hit the ball not once but twice.
“When we come together as a country we are capable of great things. We have come together for the same goal, we had to win today and we beat the undefeated team. There is still a long way to go, but we are doing well,” said Borges.
Costa Rica will visit eliminated El Salvador on Sunday and then host the United States on Wednesday.
It wasn’t the prettiest game to watch, but in the end, it didn’t have to be for Costa Rica and the final score was what mattered.