San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

National Soccer Team Qualifies forWorld Cup

A soaking wet “la Sele” – Costa Rica’s Selección Nacional, or national soccer team – qualified for the 2006 World Cup Saturday night under heavy rains by defeating the U.S. team in a match that delighted more than 17,000 fans at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in Tibás, north of San José.The 3-0 victory sends the team to its third World Cup, to be held in Germany next year.Star player Paulo César Wanchope scored the first goal of the game after 15 minutes of asphyxiating Tico pressure in the midfield. The goal was the 43rd he has scored with the national team – making Wanchope, 29, the player with the most accumulated goals in the history of the team. (He was previously tied with teammate Rolando Fonseca at 42.) It also ended a six-game streak of U.S. shutouts.Carlos Hernández scored the other two goals of the night. His first was scored only one minute after he entered the game; his rocket past goalkeeper Tim Howard was the first time Hernández had touched the ball. His second goal was a breathtaking cannon in the 88th minute that slammed off the crossbar and behind a helpless Howard for the 3-0 lead. La Sele’s performance kept the U.S. team from ending its San José losing streak: it has never won a World Cup elimination game in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican team made it to the 1990 World Cup in Italy and to Korea in 2002.The team went on to lose to Guatemala Wednesday night, 3-1 – dampening, but not extinguishing, fans’ glow of pride.

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