National Team Heads Home After Three World Cup Losses

June 23, 2006

Costa Rica’s National Soccer Team lost to Poland 1-2 in Germany on Tuesday, ending a disappointing World Cup run.

Back home, the team’s three losses – their two losses to Germany, 2-4, and Ecuador, 0-3, had already dashed any chances that Costa Rica would advance past the first round (TT, June 16) – have drawn criticism of head coach Alexandre Guimaraes and of the country’s soccer in general.

The team, which returned to Costa Rica Wednesday, ended its run ranked last in Group A; Germany and Ecuador, ranked first and second, moved on to the next round, while Poland’s consolation win over Costa Rica gave it the third-place slot.

Though many Ticos couldn’t refrain from sneaking a peek at their team’s final appearance, Tuesday’s game generated very little energy compared to the street-clearing, bar filling match against Germany June 9. La Sele’s Ronald Gómez opened the scoring in the 24th minute when he buried a free kick in the back of the net, but Poland’s Bartosz Bosacki got the best of goalkeeper Francisco Porras off corner kicks in the 32nd and 66th minutes to secure a win for his team.

President Oscar Arias, though not the world’s most obsessive soccer fan – he said Monday that the only games he’d watched during his trip to Europe were Costa Rica-Germany, which he attended in person, and the U.S.-Italy tie June 17 – commented on the team’s performance this week, saying Costa Rican soccer has a long way to go.

“Four to two was an acceptable, worthy score,” he said of the Germany game at a press conference Monday upon his return from a two-week tour of Europe. But “we have to accept that our soccer doesn’t compare with the level of quality of other countries… we have to accept that it hasn’t gone well for us.”

He added that it’s unfair to heap the blame upon Guimaraes, citing the strength of other countries such as Brazil – where, Arias said, children learn to kick a soccer ball before they learn to walk.

The daily La Nación this week called the tournament “Costa Rica’s worst World Cup” – this year’s Mundial is the country’s third – and reported that boos and police protection greeted Guimaraes at the airport upon his return Wednesday. His team got a mixed reception, with a small group of supporters trying to drown out the shouts of a larger crowd of angry critics.

 

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