Match tonight is much more than just a soccer game

Tonight is not just a soccer game. It is revenge, an exorcism and righting a wrong all in one.

Daniel Ortega may be taking over Costa Rican land uncontested, and the cost of living is soaring. But none of that matters.

The attention of any true Tico will be focussed on the Estadio Nacional tonight.

Costa Ricans want revenge for the loss last March near Denver, Colorado, when snow covered the playing field. They also carry a grudge against the United States for the last-second goal that tied a 2010 game in Washington, D.C. that blocked the Costa Rican national team from going to South Africa and the World Cup.

Such feelings run deep, and La Nación published Thursday a lengthy story that verged on incitement. Titled Aquel maldito córner, the story ran to 3,398 words. almost a short novel, recounting the last seconds of that game in the tiniest of details. The translation is “That damn corner,” meaning the place in the net where the U.S. put the ball to score in the last seconds that October night.

The mood is that Costa Ricans have been picked upon.  Many resent the five minutes added to play that allowed the U.S. team to  engineer a 2-2 tie in 2010.  The sports story by  Álvaro Murillo notes that the U.S. team already had qualified for the South African trip. The unstated question is why did they play so hard to deprive Costa Rica of the same achievement. The way the rankings were then, Honduras got the third slot for the region when it won its game the same night.

Costa Ricans also feel that they were cheated somehow when game officials allowed the match to continue in March even though there was an early spring snowstorm.  A victory tonight would exorcise those events that have been bedeviling Costa Ricans for years. A loss would be an incredible blow to the nation’s elf-esteem. No one dare say “It’s just a game.”

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