San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Sloth kong

Sloth Kong nurses Panama back to health as La Sele takes lead in World Cup group play

Battered and bruised, a Costa Rican men’s national football team missing more than half of its regular starters still managed to beat Panama this week in World Cup qualifying play.

La Sele weathered heavy rain Tuesday to topple Panama 2-1 at Panama City’s Rommel Fernández Stadium in an all-important race for first place in Group B of the fourth round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The surprising win for La Sele, which is without some very key players like goalie Keylor Navas and midfielder Celso Borges, gives it the sole lead of group play with six points over Panama, Jamaica, and Haiti.

Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz (on the ground) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Panama during the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup Concacaf Qualifiers football match in Panama City, on Nov. 17, 2015.

Rodrigo Arangua/AFP

La Sele already had defeated Haiti 1-0 a week ago in the opening qualifying game at San José’s National Stadium.

Costa Rica won’t resume World Cup qualifying play until March, when it plays the third member of its bracket, Jamaica, at home in San José.

Meanwhile, La Sele’s altruistic and unofficial mascot Sloth Kong is helping nurse Panama back to health ahead of its next match against Haiti, also in March.

Text by Michael Krumholtz, Sloth Kong illustration by Haimeluna

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