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HomeNewsCosta Rica Wins but Exits Copa América 2024

Costa Rica Wins but Exits Copa América 2024

Costa Rica defeated an already eliminated Paraguay 2-1 on Tuesday in their final Group D match of the 2024 Copa América, but it wasn’t enough to secure a spot in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The Ticos struck early, with Francisco Calvo scoring in the 2nd minute and Josimar Alcócer adding another in the 6th. The half-full Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas, was dominated by Costa Rican supporters. Paraguay’s Ramón Sosa pulled one back with a powerful shot in the 54th minute.

Costa Rica needed a big win against Paraguay and for Colombia to heavily defeat Brazil in the group’s other match to advance. However, Colombia, who finished top of Group D with seven points, drew 1-1 with Brazil. This result gave Brazil the second quarterfinal spot with five points.

Costa Rica, fielding the tournament’s youngest squad, finished with four points, while Paraguay left without scoring any. After the match, Paraguay’s coach Daniel Garnero, who took over last year, said, “I’m here because the leadership requested my services. If they don’t want me to continue, I’ll discuss it with them.”

The Costa Ricans quickly dominated the field, spurred on by chants of “Olé, olé, olé, olé, ticos, ticos” from their supporters. They held the majority of the 12,700 tickets sold in the 20,700-capacity stadium.

Costa Rica’s coach, Gustavo Alfaro, commented, “I wanted the boys to earn themselves a victory. We’re fighting with humility to show that these young players can compete because they’ve faced the best.”

The Argentine coach implemented a defensive strategy that covered the entire field, while the team’s youthful energy allowed for quick transitions to attack. This approach exploited Paraguay’s fragile midfield, which had opted for more attackers than defensive players.

In the opening minutes, Costa Rica’s Joseph Mora delivered a perfect cross for Francisco Calvo, who headed it in accurately, catching the Paraguayans off guard. Before Paraguay could fully recover, Costa Rica exploited a gap on the right wing left by Víctor Velásquez, who was out of position and isolated from his center-backs, Fabián Balbuena and Omar Alderete. Josimar Alcócer sprinted from midfield unchallenged and scored from the edge of the area.

Paraguay struggled to establish a presence in Costa Rica’s box, a departure from their traditional style. After regrouping, they attempted to react by trying to win back possession, but Costa Rica’s defensive lines thwarted most attempts.

Garnero had fielded three offensive players plus Adam Bareiro as the lone striker, replacing Alex Arce, who didn’t even make the substitute list. The Guaraníes resorted to individual efforts, with goalkeeper Patrick Sequeira easily handling a free kick from Almirón.

After the halftime break, Paraguay emerged with a new strategy, replacing the ineffective Bareiro with Angel Romero. The Guaraníes showed renewed energy and regained control in midfield, improving their passing accuracy.

In the 54th minute, Mathías Villasanti outmaneuvered four Costa Rican players and set up Ramón Sosa, who fired an unstoppable shot past goalkeeper Sequeira.

Paraguay’s fighting spirit seemed revived. Néstor Giménez had a clear chance at the 60-minute mark, sending the ball over the crossbar, though he was offside. Striker Julio Enciso tested the goalkeeper at 61 minutes with a shot that missed the target.

As the match progressed, Costa Rica began to tire, losing energy and possession. Alfaro refreshed his team by bringing on Brandon Aguilera for Joel Campbell, a veteran from the 2014 World Cup squad.

In stoppage time, Romero nearly equalized, but Sequeira managed to save anxiously. Costa Rica held on for the win, but as night fell, so did their hopes of advancing. Nevertheless, Alfaro remained positive.

“After playing against Luis Díaz, Vinicius, and James Rodríguez, the players were saying how great it is to compete at this level. I told them this is elite football,” the coach explained. “We’re a group of young players with a big dream,” he added.

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