Costa Rica 3-Jamaica 1.
Terrible, terrible game. Since one could safely bet that one of these
teams is probably going to the Cup, a tape of this game is all Europeans
need to make their frequent argument that 3 spots for CONCACAF is at least
one too many.
I am beginning to be pesimistic, after this game, about Costa Rica's
chances to qualify.
Costa Rica had a disastrous game; I do not remember the national team
playing this badly, well, ever. Finishing was poor; game construction was
completely absent; contention was poor. Most importantly, the defense
played a very bad game even by their already low standards. Jamaica and
Costa Rica had a very similar amount of clear scoring opportunities,
despite the fact that the Jamaican midfield did not create (and not for
lack of liberty); with no exception, all the Jamaican ones were created
either by a Costa Rican midfielder missing a mark, or by a Costa Rican
defender making a perfect pass to a Jamaican forward in a circumstance in
which clearing, passing or playing out were easy to do.
A combination of things went wrong for CR: a- some terrible performances;
b- the loss in El Salvador had the worst psychological effect; c- the game
plan was idiotic. Among those in a-, first and foremost, Austin Berry
provided the worst performance I have ever seen in a professional. And I
do not only mean professional futbol players...I have never seen or known
of anybody being paid for doing something as badly as he played on Sunday;
that includes a doctor I know that once amputated the wrong leg out of a
guy. The rest of the squad also underperformed.
The only things that saved us were a couple of plays by Wanchope, a
brilliant day by goalkeeper Lonnis, a very valiant struggle by Fonseca,
and a couple of good performances by Soto and Oviedo off the bench. Of
course, the most important thing in our favor was also that the adversary
was Jamaica. Anyone of the other teams in the hexagonal (let alone the
kind of team we should be beating if we want to *deserve* -let alone get-
a spot in the WC) would have trashed us.
Jamaica is not a team without talent: this could be a very good team. But
they are completely undisciplined, and for all practical purposes have no
coach (well, they hired a Brazilian cheerleader who seats in the bench,
but who celebrates their antics rather than instilling in them much needed
discipline, conditioning and teamwork).
Problem a in CR: psychology. Costa Rica lost in El Salvador a week
before, coming off an eleven-game undefeated streak in which they had
looked competent. The loss was somewhat surprising. Even the Salvadorian
coach ranked CR as the better team; CR got overconfident, chose to not use
some of our best players, and paid the price. El Salvador played a great
game, and even with our full-strength squad they were quite a bundle to
handle. They also showed that they are much better than we all expected
them to be, once their foreign-based players are back on the squad. On
top of everything, the ref seems to have been a factor (according to
sources I usually find trustworthy...I could not see the game as it was
not broadcast in the Chicago area).
CR could have done a lot with this loss. We could have shrugged it off as
"it was an away game, the other guys played great, and at least we did not
stink". We could have taken it as motivation. We could have been
Argentinean about it and blame it entirely on the ref (not completely out
of the question, given he ate two goals and two penalties). But instead,
our team and press (which are prone to this type of fatalism) used that
loss to convince themselves that they are indeed as bad as the score would
make them look, that the previous 15 or so games were a fluke, and that we
could hardly put up a fight against Jamaica at home. The players, most of
whom are under 20yo, swallowed that up, and were terrified before the game
started. I knew there was something wrong when I saw the faces of our
squad, looking just like the visiting team usually looks in Saprissa
Problem b- game plan. Costa Rica's soul is in the creative midfield and
offense; the contention midfield is not that brilliant, and the defense is
clearly a weak spot. Attacking, there are two strengths in this team:
speed and ball control. In the first three games, we were playing against
teams that are old and slow (all three first opponents average over 30
years of age in defense and back-midfield)...thus we exploited speed
rather than touch. Against Jamaica, obviously the strategy had to be
switched, as the Jamaican defenders are confused but at least they are
fast. It was not switched.
On top of that, this bad habit of playing with 11 forwards is beginning to
catch up on us. The two players who acted as forwards, plus three of the
four that acted as midfielders, play forward in their clubs. Three of the
four defenders started their career as midfielders. Even the goalkeeper
was a centerforward when he was starting out. This means that, in a way,
we were playing with one defender, four midfielders and six forwards on
Sunday. Talk about throwing caution to the wind!
Lets hope that the psyche of these guys can be fixed, and that Cordero
finally admits that he cannot keep playing with four untalented defenders,
all on line, with off-side trap, and plenty of liberty to join attack. He
might as well use the best defenders we have (even if that means going
back on his bravados and admitting that he needs a libero instead of four
in line), and understand that if a team is strong on front and weak in
back then the fullbacks should not be given too much attacking liberty.
I am beginning to fear that we are not going to get that third
place...even though I dont see much in the three teams with whom we are
fighting it out. Hope the Vancouver game proves me wrong about the