World Cup: Costa Rica’s first shot on goal counts
Steamrollered by Spain, Costa Rica on Sunday found their first shot on goal in this World Cup entering the Japan net to stun the Asian powerhouse.
Vilified by fans back home after the humiliating 7-0 drubbing in their opener, Costa Rica needed to show the world that they were not in Qatar to make up the numbers.
And they did. Japan, much celebrated after their shock 2-1 win over Germany, were brought crashing down to earth by a dogged bunch of Costa Ricans who won 1-0 at the Ahmed Bin Ahmed Stadium to stay in contention in Group E.
Japan had controlled the game until the 81st minute, when they gave the ball away to Keysher Fuller, who fired a shot past the fingers of Shuichi Gonda and into the upper right corner of the net. This was the Central American nation’s first shot on goal in nearly 180 minutes of play in Qatar, but they made it count.
The result stunned Japan and ended the momentum they were riding after their upset of Germany last week. Japan will need to beat Spain, one of the title favourites, later this week to advance.
The result will also silence talks, at least for the time being, of an Asian resurgence as both Japan and Saudi Arabia tasted defeats in their respective second matches. Iran, for a change, reacted to their big loss to England by beating Wales.
“We are lacking some of the qualities, I must admit. We need to work to improve our football,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said, struggling to find words at the post-match news conference.
The win has thrown Group E wide open. Now Costa Rica can also fancy their chances of advancing to the roundof-16 with a favourable result against Germany on Thursday. To put themselves in such a situation is in itself a huge achievement.
“Today I will not talk about tactics. Today I will tell you about my boys who were dead but (are) now alive. I will congratulate them for the performance they put up against a team of Japan’s stature,” Costa Rica’s Colombian coach Luis Fernando Suarez said.
True. Fighting back probably is in the genes of this Costa Rica team.
In the qualifiers of the CONCACAF region, they had won only one of their seven matches. Then there was a turnaround as they went on to win their next six and drew one. They finished fourth behind Canada, the US and Mexico to earn a play-off battle with New Zealand. A 1-0 victory brought them to Qatar.
“I am a facilitator. It’s the players who do their job. I like what this squad has, the ability to believe in themselves. That helps to bring the best out of us. In the qualifiers, we rallied around each other to earn a Qatar berth. That camaraderie also saw us through this difficult phase after the Spain match. We were ashamed of ourselves after that game,” the 62-year-old Suarez said.
Against Japan, he tweaked his system and played with a three-back defence. Costa Ricans were more direct in their approach and fought for every ball.
“We were finding it difficult to gain possession,” Japan coach Moriyasu conceded.
Surarez though doesn’t believe tactical play has any role in football. ‘We played four atthe back and were 0-3 downthe other day.
“You could play six at the back and still lose. It’s courage and mentality which matter more,” he said.