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New lineup falls short, South Korea beats La Sele 2-0

AFP Photo / Jung Yeon-je

Costa Rica’s men’s national team experienced abundant growing pains Friday when it debuted a youth-laden lineup and a new-look formation in a friendly against South Korea.

In its first action since this summer’s World Cup, La Sele fell 2-0, a deserved result as Costa Rica struggled to generate offensive opportunities or even maintain possession.

Despite starting the match in a 4-2-3-1 formation designed to empower defensive stability and attacking creativity, Costa Rica managed only a single shot on target late in the second half. Meanwhile, South Korea’s versatile Nam Tae-Hee bothered the backline throughout.

In the 33rd minute, Nam slipped behind Tico defender Cristian Gamboa, who dragged down the midfielder. South Korean captain Son Heung-Min missed the ensuing penalty, but Lee Jae-Sung was left unmarked and tapped in the rebound to open the scoring.

Nam sealed the result in the 78th minute by finishing a South Korean counterattack with a fierce short-range strike.

If Costa Rica qualifies for the 2022 World Cup, the team it sends to Qatar will look vastly different from the one fans saw this summer in Russia — which ranked as the oldest squad in the tournament. Interim manager Ronald González emphasized youth Friday, starting Mayron Clayton, 24, at striker and supporting him with a midfield featuring Jimmy Marín, 20, Allan Cruz, 22, and Elías Aguilar, 26.

The inexperience showed against South Korea, which dominated possession and had a flurry of scoring chances midway through the first half. But Costa Rican goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado made a pair of sure-handed saves to keep the game close.

La Sele will face Japan on Tuesday at Panasonic Stadium near Osaka in another international friendly.

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