From the first minute of Costa Rica’s dominating 3-0 win over Jamaica at National Stadium in San José Tuesday, the sudden change was obvious.
It wasn’t just La Sele’s dramatic difference in play from Friday’s lackluster 1-1 tie in the first part of the team’s World Cup qualifying doubleheader against Jamaica, but a clear disparity in talent between La Sele and a solid Jamaican side that was on full display for a sold-out home crowd.
After almost scoring on two occasions in as many minutes to open the game Tuesday, Costa Rica broke into the net in the fifth minute when star midfielder Celso Borges headed in an early goal.
La Sele, which looked so passive during Friday’s game on the island, continued to dictate the pace from there, not allowing Jamaica’s speed to play much of a factor at all.
Most importantly, the ball was constantly at the feet of Costa Rica’s playmakers. Whether it was Borges making decisive passes, Joel Campbell pushing the ball downfield, or Bryan Ruíz finding openings in the defense, La Sele’s best talents overpowered Jamaica in every way.
In the 36th minute, Ruíz scored Costa Rica’s second goal when he cleaned up a deflected miss by striker Marco Ureña. Just as with Borges’ goal, the Ticos had three tries in as many minutes in a stretch where they were applying a flurry of pressure on Jamaican goalie Andre Blake.
Really no comparisons can be made between Friday’s game and Tuesday’s near-perfect showing. Every area that looked flawed for La Sele in Jamaica was turned into a piece of art in San José. The passing was more precise, the transition to each level was so fluid, and there was a sense of urgency that just didn’t exist in the first leg.
After not traveling to Jamaica, midfielder Johan Venegas scored in the 76th minute, just three minutes after subbing in, giving Costa Rica the 3-0 lead.
In the teams’ first match, the Reggae Boyz killed La Sele with long lobs from the midfield, trying to take shots with their fast strikers. Ramírez’s defense put the clamps down on it in a hurry on Tuesday. In the 15th minute Oscar Duarte, the Spanish La Liga defender who didn’t play Friday, made a great clear of one such long volley.
And when the Reggae Boyz were able to get past the five-man backline, it was superstar goalie Keylor Navas who played hero yet again for La Sele. Twice in the 17th minute, the Real Madrid keeper made clutch saves at the goal to keep a clean sheet.
Navas was certainly helped by the middle of the defense that was anchored by Duarte, Kendall Waston, and Friday’s goal-scorer Johnny Acosta. Their physicality helped to neutralize Jamaica’s speed, as they were able to keep most everything in front of them Tuesday night.
Costa Rica keeps its three-point lead ahead of second place Panama in their group of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, remaining just one point away from clinching a spot in the hexagonal, where the final six teams meet to fight for a spot in the 2018 World Cup.
La Sele will not continue qualifying play until a Sept. 2 game against Haiti, the group’s last place team. Costa Rica then finishes the round robin back at home on Sept. 6 against Panama, which it beat 2-1 last November.