The Costa Rican under-20 national soccer team is proving that despite the dark clouds hanging over the chances of the men´s national team to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, the next generation of Costa Rican soccer looks bright.
The Costa Rican under-20 team beat Egypt 2-0 Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2009 U-20 World Cup. The qualification for the quarterfinals is the furthest the Costa Rican U-20 has ever advanced in the World Cup.
“We have a very close group on this team,” Costa Rica coach Ronald González said. “Most of them have played together for about two years. When games get tight or close, the guys trust each other. I think that´s what helped them hold on for the win today.”
In the 22nd minute, the Ticos opened the scoring when midfielder David Guzman sent a curling free kick into the box, where it was deflected towards the back post and met there by team captain José Mena, who dove to head the ball into the back of the net. The goal silenced the crowd of 71,000 Egyptian fans in the capitol city of Cairo, but seemed to energize the Egyptian team, who applied relentless pressure on the Costa Rican defense and goal for the remainder of the first half. Many attempts on goal missed wide or over the bar, while every effort made on target was snared or deflected by Costa Rican goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado, who was stellar throughout the match.
In the second half, Egypt continued to apply pressure on the Costa Rican defense, but they were unable to find a way past Alvarado. The 6´3´´ keeper made save after save to thwart Egypt´s efforts, including a sprawling save in the 82nd minute off a well-struck free kick.
As the game neared its close, Egypt pushed more players forward, leaving themselves bare for a Costa Rican counterattack. And in the 88th minute, the Ticos capitalized. After a nifty move to beat one Egyptian defender, midfielder Diego Estrada slipped a pass to forward Marco Ureña, who struck a first-time blast into the opposite corner of the net to seal the win for the Ticos.
As the Ticos celebrated their unlikely win, dejected Egyptian players and fans remained in the stadium, some with their heads in their hands, some in tears, mourning the team´s lost opportunity to achieve greater success in their home-country World Cup.
Costa Rica will play in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Oct. 10, against the winner of the match between the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, which will be played Wednesday.