Game Report: Trinidad and Tobago vs Costa Rica
By LASANA LIBURD
SPANISH, it seemed, was the first language at the Hasely Crawford National Stadium yesterday evening as Costa Rica defeated hosts Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 in a 2002 Concacaf World Cup qualifier.
The result made Costa Rica the 11th team to qualify for the 2002 World Cup and the first from the Concacaf region.
And, at the final whistle, a large group of Costa Rican supporters screamed and tossed drinks and hats in the air to mark the occasion.
In contrast, a disoriented Trinidad and Tobago squad slunk towards the dressing room with the weight of four successive defeats on their shoulders.
The match should have heralded the rebirth of the “Soca Warriors” under the guidance of Brazilian technical director Rene Simoes but, instead, was nothing short of a Costa Rican fiesta.
As the teams faced the covered stands for the playing of the anthems, the Warriors would have been bemused to see—in that section—more Central American supporters than locals.
There were anywhere from 500 to 1,500 Costa Ricans from an attendance of approximately 6,500 spectators at the stadium.
It was hard to gauge an exact figure as both sets of supporters wore red. But there was no doubt about which was the noisier group.
The visitors did not have to wait long to start their party.
Just four minutes into the match, Costa Rican striker Ronald Gomez spun on opposing sweeper Anton Pierre—about 25 yards from goal—and charged into the penalty area.
His low left footer nestled in the back of the net, despite a touch from goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, for the opening item and his first goal of the 2002 qualifying series.
The loud roar that went up from the covered stands suggested that they were on their way.
The visiting supporters, as it turned out, had good reason for optimism.
Three minutes later, the “Ticos” almost struck again when captain Reynaldo Parks deflected a Walter Centeno shot towards goal.
Only a good low block from Hislop and a desperate defensive clearance averted the danger on that occasion.
The locals, who made six changes to their starting line-up since their last qualifier, slowly began to settle on the damp pitch and were gaining in confidence when Costa Rica doubled their lead.
Once more, it was Gomez who “did the dirty” and maintained his rich vein of form in Trinidad.
Five years ago to the day, the burly Greek-based centre forward had managed Costa Rica’s lone item in a 1-0 qualifying win at the Queen’s Park Oval for the 1998 World Cup.
Selected in place of suspended striker Paolo Wanchope, Gomez was twice as efficient yesterday as he again beat Hislop in the 34th minute with a firm half volley which took a wicked deflection off the boot of Pierre.
There was precious little goalmouth action thereafter for either team.
To the credit of the hosts, though, they never looked like crumbling as they did in a 4-2 loss to Honduras.
The Warriors, if anything, enjoyed slightly better ball possession and gave as good as they got.
In the midfield, Joe Public star Arnold Dwarika displayed deft dribbling skills although his distribution was well short of its normal precision.
Right wing-back Cyd Gray, Stern John and Pierre also toiled hard with minimal success as did lively United States-based substitute Gary Glasgow.
But none looked capable of changing the eventual result.
The host’s best chance fell to the industrious Brent Rahim, who replaced Aurtis Whitley—otherwise known as Otis Seaton—at the interval.
Fourteen minutes into the second half, John chested down a Dwarika cross for Rahim who pulled his shot wide of the far post from the edge of the penalty area.
Costa Rican substitute, Hernan Medford, also just missed the target with a booming left footer from the edge of the area after a skilful backheel from Steven Bryce in the 63rd minute.
But there was little else to illuminate the crowd.
Unless you were Costa Rican, of course.
At the interval, the Central Americans formed a conga line and danced through the aisles.
And, for most of the 90 minutes, they sang, clapped and shouted “Ole” as their team battled to its second-ever World Cup spot.
Coach Alexandre Guimaraes and Medford were both players when the “Ticos” played in the 1990 tournament in Italy and they would have been especially proud of yesterday’s achievement. If not their performance.
It was a totally forgettable match but, for Costa Ricans, a truly memorable result.
T&T: 1-Shaka Hislop; 4-Marvin Andrews (5-Keyeno
Thomas 66), 16-Anton Pierre, 17-Addison Belfon; 3-Dale Saunders, 7-Cyd Gray,
6-Avery John, 19-Aurtis Whitley (11-Brent Rahim 46), 9-Arnold Dwarika; 18-Nigel
Pierre (12-Gary Glasgow 61), 14-Stern John.
COSTA RICA: 1-Erick Lonnis; 17-Stephen Bryce, 22-Carlos Castro (6-Wilmer Lopez 66), 10-Walter Centeno, 2-Jorge Drummond (20-William Sunsing 77), 7-Ronaldo Fonseca (17-Hernan Medford 61), 11-Ronaldo Gomez, 3-Luis Marin, 5-Gilberto Martinez, 8-Mauricio Solis, 21-Reynaldo Parkes.
REFEREE: Mohammed Koussa (Syria).
That was the sad state of affairs yesterday as Trinidad and Tobago officially said goodbye to all chances of reaching the 2002 World Cup Finals in Korea/Japan with a 2-0 loss to table-toppers Costa Rica at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.
Ronald Gomez found himself in the right place at the right time to net both goals for the Costa Ricans in the first half.
Victory left Costa Rica at the head of the standings in the final qualifying round of the CONCACAF Zone with 16 points from seven matches while defeat left the "Soca Warriors" anchored at the bottom of the six-country competition with a lone point from a draw with Mexico at the same venue in April.
T&T still has three matches to complete what has been a miserable final qualifying round experience. It plays Mexico on Wednesday in Mexico, Honduras early next month in Honduras and the United States here in mid-November.
National coach Brazilian Professor Rene Simoes of Brazil will now have to focus all his attention on building a formidable unit for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Although at home yesterday, the "Soca Warriors" found itself playing with little vocal support from its fans except for the sounds of steelband Woodbrook Playboyz, which kept up a steady rhythm throughout the match.
As it turned out, it was Costa Rica instead which enjoyed better crowd support as its 1,500-strong invasion kept up a constant party chant of "Ole-Ole-Ole, Ole-Ole-Ole, Ticos-Ticos-Ticos".
Ironically, almost the entire crowd of about 8,000 was clad in red so it was difficult to distinguish a Trinidadian from a Costa Rican unless you heard someone speak.
In a match in which both goalkeepers, Erick Lonis for Costa Rica and Shaka Hislop for T&T. had little work to do, goalscorer Gomez made his two strikes count.
Four minutes into the game Gomez was fed a pass by over-lapping right back Gervis Drummond just outside the box. He rounded debutant Addison Belfon without much fuss and, from around the penalty spot, left fly a left-footer that was partially saved by Hislop before the ball entered the net.
It was the first serious attack by either team as well as the first shot for the visitors in the first half hour of play.
Up until when Costa Rica scored again in the 33rd minute, Trinidadian Arnold Dwarika was running rings around the opposition in midfield. However, he was not getting the support he needed upfront from Stern John and Nigel Pierre whenever he made a penetrative pass.
Like the first goal, Costa Rica attacked down the "Soca Warriors'" left flank and once again it was a Drummond-Gomez combination that brought success.
Drummond, who found himself near the corner flag, faked a cross and the inexperience of Balfon showed as the defender jumped and turned his back in anticipation of the ball hitting him.
Drummond quick to realise he had caught the T&T defender napping, made room for himself and laid on a pass for Gomez, whose left-foot shot took a deflection before beating a helpless Hislop.
It wasn't until Brent Rahim was brought on for Aurtis Whitney (Otis Seaton) in the 46th minute and Gary Glasgow replaced Pierre in the 61st minute that T&T looked dangerous.