Crowds cheer arriving team

A TACA airliner carrying the national soccer team touched down at 2:19 p.m. today, Tuesday, at Juan Santamaría airport, and then the pilot took what amounted to a victory lap the full length of the runway while Bryan Ruiz waved a Costa Rican flag from the cockpit window.

Crowds lined the chain-link fence that circles the runway.

Thousands witnessed the arrival. Red-clad Ticos lined the highways around the airport as far as the eye could see. Some stood 10 deep in anticipation of a caravan that would carry the team to Parque la Sabana.

The plane was nearly an hour later than officials had scheduled.

President Luis Guillermo Solís stood at the base of a stair truck in windy weather waiting for the passengers to leave the craft. Wives of the players were among the first to leave the plane. Then Jorge Luis Pinto, the team coach appeared with other members of his staff.

A gathering of school children were there, too, and Pinto tried to shake every hand.

Individual players negotiated the stairway with bags in hand. On the ground they greeted the president.

The country was primed for another party to salute the underdog team that managed to reach the World Cup quarterfinals and only missed the semi-finals because of two blocked penalty shots.

Coach Pinto gets an abrazo from President Solís.

Coach Pinto gets an abrazo from President Solís.

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