Costa Rica Shocked the World
According to several international experts, Uruguay, two time winner of the FIFA World Cup (1930 & 1950), was the frontrunner to win the match. However, the word “favorite” doesn’t mean much in FIFA history. Back in the 1950s, England was outclassed by America’s side with a sensational goal of Joseph Gaetjens, an athlete which then was killed by Haiti’s dictator Francois Duvalier . A decade later, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea beat Italy 1-0. Today, Uruguay was unable to win its game and was defeated by Costa Rica 3-1 in the 67,037-seater Castelao Stadium (Fortaleza), in one of the most memorable matches in the 2014 World Cup on Brazilian soil.
The win helped avenge CR’s 2010 loss to Uruguay during a Pre-World Cup event, allowing the Uruguayan side to gain a berth in the South Africa World Cup. After CR’s win, San Jose’s streets (the country’s capital) were invaded by thousands of citizens, from children to women, with Costa Rican flags.
As well as winning the 2013 South Americana Cup -equivalent of the European Cup— Uruguay was one of the most outstanding squads in the last Cup held in sub-Saharan Africa —well ahead of Brazil & Argentina— and had won an Olympic ticket to attend the Games of the XXX Olympiad in Great Britain, after a hiatus of nearly 90 years.
A Historic Game
Uruguay left Luis Suárez, a key player for the national team, on the bench, but thanks to a 24th minute penalty from Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani, the South American republic went ahead in the first half in Group D. In the second time, however, there were three goals from Costa Rica: Joel Campbell (9m), Oscar Duarte (12m), and Marco Ureña (39m). Underestimate Costa Rica won three points in Group D. “It’s a historic victory to have won against a great team a tough team that is not easy to beat…”, Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said.
Curiously, the country’s roster included 14 foreign-based players, who play in top clubs of Europa (11) and the States (3). But there are other interesting facts. Some of CR’s key players are part of a hugely promising generation that won the 2009 Concacaf U-20 Championship and narrowly missed the bronze medal after losing to Hungary 2-0 (penalties) at the World Youth Cup in Egypt in October 2009.
On the eve of the 2006 World Cup, the Costa Rican side — known as the Ticos— had been called “the Brazil of Central America” by the international press.
This unexpected win was a surprise in this Spanish-speaking republic of 4 million people, sparking off celebrations in all of the nation, where football is a special sport since the 1930s when CR’s national side finished as runner-up to Cuba at the II Central American and Caribbean Games (Arbena, 1999).
A Brief History of Costa Rica’s Football
CR’s football is characterized by a strong work with the under-17 and under-19 teams. This project began to pay off as the junior team beat Colombia (silver medal at the 1988 South American Youth Championship) in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s. Subsequently, CR competed in four successive Junior World Cups — 1995, 1997 , 1999 & 2001 (Guevara & Chanamé, 1998). In 1999, the national side shocked the world when it beat Germany 2-1 in Nigeria (West Africa).
The Costa Rican squad made its first appearance in the major international competitions during the 1980 Olympics in the then Soviet Union and four years later they again won an Olympic status in the Los Angeles Olympiad, paving the way for the FIFA World Championship in 1990 (Guevara & Chanamé, 1998). In this year’s Cup, CR — the size of the U.S. state of Maryland— ranked 16th in the overall classification in the 24-team tournament, Central America’s best performance in the history of the game (Palmer & Molina, 2004). It then was eliminated in the World Cup Qualifying matches for 12 years, making its comeback in 2002 and 2006, after being absent for two editions.
By 2004, the Central American team made the quarterfinals of the Olympic Tournament in Greece, but it failed to reach the semifinals upon losing to Argentina, the eventual Olympic champion.
Costa Rica’s sport has not had great success since 1987 and 1996 when two swimmers (of German ancestry) put CR on the global sports map (Rodriguez, 2004). Before winning Olympic medal, Sylvia Poll Ahrens produced a total de eight medals at the 1987 Pan American Sports Games on U.S. soil (Kinzer, 1988). Later on, his sister Claudia went back to his homeland nation with an Olympic title in 1996 (Arkush, 2000).
(1)- Almanaque Mundial Deportivo 1977, Editorial América, 1976 (Spanish)
(2)- Arbena, Joseph. Latin American Sport: An Annotated Bibliography 1988-1998, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999
(3)- Arkush, Michael. “Olympics: The Road to Sydney”, New York Times, July 31, 2000
(4)- Guevara Onofre Alejandro & Chaname Orbe, Raúl. Enciclopedia MundoTotal 1999, Editorial San Marcos (Spanish),1998
(5)- Kinzer, Stepehn. “Olympic Profile: Sylvia Poll”, New York Times, August 28, 1988
(6)- Palmer, Steven & Molina , Iván. The Costa Rica Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Duke University Press, 2004
(7)- Rodríguez Vega, Eugenio. Costa Rica en el Siglo XX Volumen 3, EUNED, 2004 (Spanish)