Costa Rica nabs spot in next year’s regional World Cup qualifying finals

October 10, 2008

Costa Rica´s national men´s soccer team beat Suriname yesterday, its fourth consecutive win, to clinch a spot in next year´s regional finals for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Captain Walter Centeno opened the scoring at 10 minutes, and midfielder Celso Borges notched the second goal just before the end of the first half, with forward Bryan Ruíz getting the assist for both.

Midfielder Armando Alonso scored minutes into the second half, this time with Centeno on the assist. Although Suriname striker Clifton Sandvliet responded less than a minute later, his team would never make any other serious threat to the Ticos, who rounded out the night with one more goal in the 76th minute by Alonso Solís, just three minutes after he was subbed in for Ruíz.

The win puts la Sele atop Group 3 with 12 points. The team hosts Haiti this Wednesday at the Saprissa Stadium in Tibás, on the north side of San José, and then travels to San Salvador for the final game of the quadrangular phase Nov. 19 against El Salvador, who also look likely to qualify with seven points.

While Costa Rica was largely expected to make it to the next round due to the relatively weak quadrangular group competition, the wins have proven important opportunities for the team to coalesce under new Coach Rodrigo Kenton, who took over this summer from Hernán Medford. The team suffered a year-long 12-game winless drought under Medford, who, although a former standout player for la Sele, was often testy and divisive as helmsman.

The United States also has secured their spot in next year´s hexagonal phase after a 6-1 over Cuba to secure their lead in Group 1, also with 12 points. In Group 2, Mexico suffered a surprise 0-1 loss to Jamaica earlier in the week, but still co-leads the group along with Honduras at nine points, over Jamaica´s four points and two games left for each team to play.

The top two teams from each of the three groups in the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central and Caribbean Association Football) regional tournament will play in a six-team final qualifying tournament, known here as the hexagonal phase.

The top three teams from the hexagonal phase will win automatic bids to South Africa, while the fourth-placed team will vie against the fifth-placed team in the South America tournament for the hemisphere´s final qualifying slot.

Also in the CONCACAF Champions League, a tournament of the best club soccer teams in the region, local giant Saprissa drew a painful tie against the U.S.´ DC United last week in San José. After falling behind early, Saprissa scored a pair of goals to go ahead in the 85th minute. But DC United equalized in injury time. Saprissa, who beat DC United on their home turf last month, is now in a three-way tie in Group A with Honduras´ Marathon and Mexico´s SC Cruz Azul. Their next game in the tournament will be on Oct. 23 against Marathon in San Pedro Sula.

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