The Costa Rican national women’s football team on Thursday night shocked favorites Mexico, a team that came into the CONCACAF Group B opening match at full throttle and expecting to score early.
The strategy nearly worked as La Sele appeared nervous in the early minutes of the game, with El Tri maintaining the ball mostly on Costa Rica’s side of the field.
Seven minutes into the match in Kansas City, in the U.S., Mexico’s Veronica Corral tested Tica goalie Dinnia Díaz, who managed a diving save that quieted the mostly Mexican fans at the stadium.
A minute later, Melissa Herrera raced to the right to force Mexican keeper Cecilia Santiago out of the goal area. Herrera sent a ground shot that bounced off the left post, but Carolina Venegas was waiting to knock it in.
Match highlights, courtesy of CONCACAF. Costa Rica’s goal is at the 0:40′ mark:
La Sele maintained that momentum, dominating ball possession and running an aggressive offensive charge, led by captain Shirley Cruz.
In the 11th minute, Cruz nearly scored with a shot over the crossbar. She was in on at least three other plays that ended in plays wide of the posts. Herrera also came close to scoring in the 40th minute with a shot that keeper Santiago sent out of the lines.
The half ended with Costa Rica up 1-0, but it could have been much worse for the Mexican squad.
El Tri again came on strong at the start of the second half, and for 15 minutes of play it appeared that an equalizer was inevitable. The Mexican tactic seemed to be shoot from wherever and whenever.
In the 57th minute, Verónica Pérez challenged Tica keeper Díaz again with a shot that Díaz deflected over the crossbar with one hand.
Las Ticas played solid defense during Mexico’s second-half offensive, and little by little, Costa Rica regained control of the game. Wendy Acosta, Cristin Granados and Lixy Rodríguez all came close to scoring on Mexico.
It was a key win for Las Ticas – their first against Mexico in a World Cup qualifying match – who now face Jamaica and Martinique in upcoming matches. Previously, Mexico had beaten the Costa Rican women’s team in 1998 and 2002. If they manage to advance, it would be the first time Las Ticas qualify for the World Cup, to be held in Canada next year.
La Sele will face Jamaica on Saturday night in Bridgeview, Illinois. On Thursday, the Reggae Girls beat Martinique 6-0, to join Costa Rica at the top of Group B with three points each.
Also Saturday, Mexico will take on Martinique for a chance to keep their qualifying hopes alive.
Group A matches began on Wednesday in Kansas City, with the U.S. beating Trinidad and Tobago 1-0, and Haiti beating Guatemala, also 1-0.
Haiti will face Trinidad and Tobago on Friday, and the U.S. will play Guatemala.
Costa Rica 1 – Mexico 0
Costa Rica: Dinia Díaz, Dinia Sáenz, Carol Sánchez, Daniela Cruz, Lixy Rodríguez, Cristin Granados, Shirley Cruz (Mariana Benavides, 84′), Melissa Herrera, Raquel Rodríguez, Wendy Acosta (Gabriela Guillén, 73′) y Carolina Venegas (Fabiola Sánchez, 60′). Coach: Carlos Avedissián.
Mexico: Cecilia Santiago, Ariana Romero, Bianca Sierra, Paulina Solís (Alina Garciamendez, 38′), Mónica Alvarado, Liliana Mercado (Tanya Samarzich, 46′), Lydia Rangel, Sandra Mayor, Mónica Ocampo, Verónica Pérez y Verónica Corral (Luz Duarte, 76′). Coach: Leonardo Cuéllar.
1-0: Carolina Venegas (8′)