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Football: Costa Rica to play Nicaragua in last-minute friendly

After canceling a scheduled friendly against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines because of complications with the travel itinerary, Costa Rica’s Football Federation (FEDEFUTBOL) has now gone to Plan B: an exhibition match against Nicaragua scheduled for Dec. 15 in Liberia.

Nicaragua has enjoyed one of its best string of performances under Costa Rican-born coach Henry Duarte. The team sits on a 6-2-1 record for 2015, despite not advancing to the fourth round of the region’s World Cup qualifying bracket. The Nicas rank 92nd in the latest FIFA poll while Costa Rica rose three spots to 37th in the December standings.

FEDEFUTBOL President Rodolfo Villalobos said Friday that the national team couldn’t make it to the previously scheduled Dec. 15 visit to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines due to travel issues with multiple layovers and difficulty entering the Caribbean country at a time when it is swamped with national festivities and elections. “We can’t put our players through such a complicated flight itinerary,” Villalobos said.

Head coach Óscar Ramírez has already announced his first set of call-ups for next week’s friendly, which include burly defender Kendall Waston and the experienced Roy Miller. Waston, a member of Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps was recently named to the All-11 team, an honor marking him as one of the league’s top players.

Fellow MLS star Rodney Wallace, who won a league championship Sunday with the Portland Timbers, will join the team on Thursday. The first group of players began practicing Tuesday.

Ramírez is not expected to call up the team’s biggest names, like Keylor Navas, Bryan Ruíz, or Joel Campbell, from the European Leagues.

The friendly should serve to give Ramírez an even better assessment of his reserves and young talents. He’s already done an admirable job of finding lineups while juggling injuries to key players. Costa Rica will not play another World Cup qualifying game until March, when it takes on Jamaica in consecutive games.

Ramírez and the Ticos went 2-0 in the first leg of the fourth round of World Cup qualifying play, taking an important lead in Group B ahead of the Jamaicans and rival Panama.

The Costa Rica-Nicaragua border war friendly will kick off at 6 p.m. local time from Liberia’s Edgardo Baltodano Stadium on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Contact Michael Krumholtz at mkrumholtz@ticotimes.net

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