Thursday, June 01, 2006

World Cup Spotlight: Costa Rica

Ranked 26th by FIFA this month, the Ticos have not been thriving in their friendlies. Discouragement is on the rise, and so, as they turn to face Germany in their first daunting match, I offer up this reminder of a gorgeous moment:

It is the first round of the last World Cup. They've made it past both China and Turkey to face the Brazilians, who are already laughing their way past all comers. It is the 38th minute; Ticos are down three points. Mere seconds after Brazil's third goal, forward Paolo Wanchope gains possession and backheels it gently to Mauricio Wright who passes it back,--all this through a shifting throng of Brazilian defenders' legs--and, at 8 meters out, Wanchope taps it past Marcos into the net. The whole process is graceful and quiet, a play like a dance, practically Brazilian.

Inevitably, the other guys win, but not before a second lovely goal, this one brilliant diving header by Ronald Gomez, tournament high-scorer for the Ticos.

The bald statistic is that Costa Rica never emerged from the first round, but bald statistics leave the greater part of any story untold. Pretty football is always to be cherished, and I for one will be cheering wholeheartedly next weekend for Alexandre Guimaraes and his men.

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