The Costa Rican National Football Team, known as the “Sele,” on Sunday night arrived in the U.S. state of Connecticut with a clear objective: defeat the U.S. on Tuesday in a soccer match scheduled for 8 p.m. local time, or 6 p.m. in Costa Rica.
The game will determine the top position for Group C of the Gold Cup 2013, as both teams are tied with six points each after defeating Cuba and Belize. The outcome also will determine each team’s opponent in a quarterfinal round.
The U.S., however, will win the group with a victory or draw, because of a better goal differential. Costa Rica must win to earn the top place in the group.
Besides three points and first place, the game also has the special ingredient of revenge for the Ticos.
The last time these two teams faced off back in March, in Denver, Colorado, Costa Rica fell to the U.S. 1-0 in a World Cup qualifying match that took place in a complete blizzard.
Tico players repeatedly asked the referee to stop the game, and when he didn’t, they protested the match afterwards. FIFA denied the protest and let the game stand. That left nearly the entire country of Costa Rica ticked off and seeking revenge.
“On Tuesday, we must send a message to the U.S.: We are here to win the [Gold] Cup. We are a strong team and we can beat them in their home,” said striker and Tico captain Álvaro Saborio, who plays in the MLS for Real Salt Lake.
But La Sele’s recent play hasn’t convinced many fans, nor even the players. Costa Rica did beat lower-caliber teams, including Cuba, who scored on their own goal. “We are indebted to our fans, and we need to improve our game,” said Costa Rican Football President Eduardo Li, at the end of the match.
The Ticos traveled to the U.S. with a B team, as prominent figures such as Bryan Ruiz (Fulham, England) and Joel Campbell (Real Betis, Spain) were not called up by coach Jorge Luis Pinto.
Pinto told local media on Tuesday that, “We’re going forward, we’re going to be aggressive. We’re going with everything we’ve got.”
The lineup could see at least three changes from the team that played Cuba, Pinto said. The changes would be mostly in the attack line, since the defense has been the most regular line and has not allowed a goal in the tournament.
U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann also acknowledged the importance of the match, even if the U.S. already is set for the next round. “We are very well aware of Costa Rica, and they’re the first real benchmark for us. Everybody has respect for Belize and Cuba, but the benchmark for us starts with Costa Rica,” he told reporters in his postgame press conference after the win over Belize.