San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Friendlies with benefits

Football: Spain comes from behind to hand Costa Rica its third consecutive loss

Costa Rica’s 2-1 lost against Spain on Thursday was not the only bad news for the national football team, known as La Sele. It also was yet another bad result for coach Paulo César Wanchope, who again made unsuccessful changes in the team’s lineup and game plan.

“Los Ticos” got off to an early lead in the fifth minute when Joel Campbell took the ball from the left and cut it back to Johan Venegas, who scored the opener. It seemed like a chance for Costa Rica to show the level of play that had surprised the world at Brazil’s World Cup last year.

La Sele’s game showed slight improvement from a previous defeat against Colombia last weekend. Wanchope made several changes from the squad that faced the South Americans, and he also changed La Sele’s defensive strategy. In the Colombia match, Costa Rica played with a four-man defensive line, but against Spain, he was more cautious, sending out a five-man line. That did not work, either.

Venegas’ goal gave Costa Rica some confidence, but just two minutes later Spain’s Francisco Alcacer scored the equalizer and it was evident that Costa Rica’s defense was having problems.

From that moment on, the Europeans gained total control of the game. For over 15 minutes, Costa Rica was barely able to pass the ball beyond its half of the field. On at least two occasions Spain had the opportunity to retake the lead, but Tico and Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas saved both of them.

Defensive errors were constant during the match’s first half, and finally at 29’, one of several coordination errors between Díaz and Gamboa allowed Fábregas to slip a pass to Alcacer who confortably sent in the second goal. Navas had very little chance to do anything.

In the second half, Spain maintained Costa Rica on its side of the field and even increased its offensive plays that mostly went wide or were saved by Navas.

The Tico goalie was Costa Rica’s best player, and later saved three clear chances for Spain to score, from Silva,  Carvajal and Real Madrid teammate Ramos.

Wanchope made three substitutions, all looking to improve the team’s offensive, but La Sele had only one other clear chance to score at 81’, when Bryan Ruiz sent a shot over the goal.

Despite showing some improvement, Costa Rica’s highlights were mostly good individual performances by Navas, González on defense and Campbell on the offensive line.

The team took its third straight defeat in friendlies, following one against Panama (2-1) in March and Colombia (1-0) last Saturday. La Sele now will face Mexico in Florida, in the United States, on June 27 in another warmer before its participation at CONCACAF’s Gold Cup next month.

The match with Spain also was practice for the former world champions’ first Euro 2016 qualifying match against Belarus on Sunday.

Spain 2-1 Costa Rica

Goals:

Spain: Alcácer (7), Césc Fábregas (30)

Costa Rica: Venegas (5)

Lineups:

Spain: De Gea, Carvajal, Bartra, Ramos (Piqué, 58′), Bernat, San José (Busquet, 73′), Koke (Cazorla, 58′), Fábregas (Isco, 81′), Vidal (Vitolo, 45′), Nolito (Silva, 58′), Alcácer. Coach: Vicente del Bosque.

Costa Rica: Navas, Gamboa, Umaña, González, Miller, Díaz (Aguilar, 80′), Borges (Saborio, 88′), Guzmán (Cubero, 68), Campbell, Ruiz, Venegas (Vega, 66′). Coach: Paulo César Wanchope.

Stadium: Reino de León.

Referee: D. Vukov (CRO)

Cards:

Yellow: Gamboa (57), Borges (75)

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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