The focus of the Costa Rican soccer world momentarily shifted this week from the men’s national team to the Under-20 team, who made history with an improbable run to the U-20 FIFA World Cup semifinals in Egypt. On Tuesday, the young Ticos faced world soccer power Brazil in the semifinals.
On the big day, people packed restaurants, sodas and bars in search of a decent view of the televised game. Though Brazil beat Costa Rica 5-0 earlier in the tournament, it was expected that the improved Tico team would give the mighty Brazilians a better game in the semifinals.
And they did.
In the first half, both teams had a few opportunities to score, though a free-kick attempt by Costa Rican midfielder David Guzman was the most threatening effort by either side. Following a foul, Guzman blistered a 25-yard free kick that cleared the Brazilian wall and appeared headed for the top corner of the net. Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael proved up to the challenge and, taking advantage of his lengthy wingspan, was able to deflect the knuckling ball over the bar for a corner kick.
In the second half, the relentless pressure of the Brazilian attack began to wear on the Costa Rican defense. Brazil’s attempts became progressively more dangerous and, in the 67th minute, the Brazilians were able to break the deadlock on a close-range blast by forward Alan Kardec.
During the final 23 minutes of the game, the Ticos were able to muster some attempts on goal, though in the end, the lone goal of the match was all the Brazilians needed to advance to the finals.
“I’m very proud of the boys,” Costa Rica coach Ronald González said. “It’s a performance that gives us great confidence for the future. Some defeats can bring great hope, and this was one of them.”
Costa Rica will play their final match of the tournament in the third-place game against Hungary today at 9 a.m. Regardless of the result, the young Ticos provided the nation a glimpse of the promising future of Costa Rican soccer.