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Costa Rica blanked by Japan, 3-0

AFP Photo / Jiji Press

Costa Ricans awoke Tuesday morning to another disheartening result from their men’s national team.

Despite a promising first half, La Sele fell to Japan, 3-0, in a friendly match at Panasonic Stadium near Osaka.

The result extends a disappointing string of outcomes that began last September. Since stunning the United States in a World Cup qualifier, Costa Rica has managed just two wins over its last 15 matches. La Sele has averaged 0.67 goals per game in that span, which included a winless World Cup campaign that culminated with the dismissal of manager Óscar Ramírez.

There has not been an immediate turnaround under interim manager Ronald González, who oversaw last Friday’s 2-0 defeat to South Korea, in addition to Tuesday’s result. Costa Rica created more offensive opportunities against Japan, but Randall Leal squandered his Costa Rica’s best chance early in the first half when his shot caromed off a defender.

La Sele then gifted Japan its opening goal on a set-piece breakdown in the 16th minute. Sho Sasacki earned an unmarked header off a corner kick, and Costa Rican defender Bryan Oviedo’s deflection gave no chance for goalkeeper Leonel Moreira.

Japan left no doubts with a dominating second half. Shoya Nakajima, who bothered Costa Rica with his pace and distribution on the left flank, helped Samurai Blue double their lead by unlocking La Sele’s defense with a through ball to Wataru Endo. The midfielder’s cross found Takumi Minamino for a routine finish.

Junya Ito added the final tally in the match’s waning moments, cutting inside a flat-footed defender to complete the rout.

The lopsided scoreline could have been worse were it not for Moreira’s sprawling save on a Minamino shot late in the first half and defender Luis Hernández’s goal-line clearance in the 59th minute — all the more reason for concern given Costa Rica has been held goalless in four of its last five matches.

Breaking the inauspicious streak of poor form won’t come easily. Costa Rica’s next action will be Oct. 12 against rivals Mexico in Monterrey, and it will face Colombia at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey on Oct. 16.