It took Uruguay 57 minutes into Saturday’s FIFA World Cup game to find a sense of urgency, but by then it was too late for the South American favorites. Costa Rica scored three goals on Uruguay, shocking the world and winning the opening match of Group D play, only their fourth World Cup Finals win in national history.
The first half was a slow, lazy affair for Uruguay, who relied far too much on the long ball. Costa Rica, on the other hand, went for the sneak attack approach early on, letting Joel Campbell works his magic feet into the box, but the white jerseys could not capitalize. Neither team showed good control or possession in the first 45 minutes, causing many attacking plays to be cut short by bad passes on both sides.
Uruguay had a couple of close chances in the first 15 minutes, but Cavani was offsides on one play and whiffed at the back post on the other. Then Yeltsin Tejeda jumped feet first and studs up into a challenge, giving Uruguay a free kick from about 40 yards out. As the ball sailed toward the mass of bodies in the goal area, Júnior Díaz wrapped his arms around Diego Lugano’s midsection and pulled him to the ground.
The whistle blew, the official pointed to the spot, and Costa Rica erupted. Díaz looked stunned when the official pointed to him as the offending party and tried to argue his case, but to no avail. Cavani took the penalty, slotting it neatly into the lower left corner, just past Keylor Navas’ outstretched hand.
The goal seemed to take some of the wind out of Costa Rica’s sails, and they relaxed into the same tempo as Uruguay. The rest of the half passed with lazy plays, poor execution, and little effort from either side. Navas was the savior of the half for Costa Rica, though, with a right fist punch that sent Diego Forlan’s shot just over the crossbar.
Uruguay picked up the pace a little when the teams returned to the field for the second half, but still played sloppily and seemed content with their one goal lead. Costa Rica, however, had found a renewed sense of energy over the break and came out guns blazing, desperate for that first goal.
They got it in the 54th minute. Christian Bolaños sent a pass down the right sideline that Cristian Gamboa sprinted to catch with a one-touch cross at the corner flag. The ball was deflected from the near post side, right to a wide open Campbell, who trapped it with his chest before netting it into the opposite corner past Fernando Muslera.
Barely three minutes later, Walter Gargano was shown a yellow for a foul on Bryan Ruiz. Bolaños took the free kick and placed it perfectly on the back post, where Oscar Duarte beat Diego Lugano to head the ball into the opposite side netting.
Finally, a fire was lit under Uruguay’s heels. Luis Suarez began vigorously warming up on the sideline, but would not see the field. Instead, Nicolas Lodeiro came on for Diego Forlan, and began making plays with Edinson Cavani, but the plays were sloppy and frantic, with Uruguay continually called offsides or bested by Costa Rica’s back line. Costa Rica refused to let up, continuing to counter attack and put the South Americans back on their heels, and Uruguay responded by lashing out, committing unnecessary fouls and turnovers.
Marco Ureña replaced Ruiz at the 81 minute mark, and three minutes later he sealed Uruguay’s fate with a shot across the goal that nestled in the far corner and brought tears to the eyes of the Costa Rican fans. The goal shocked Uruguay and the crowd, giving Costa Rica a 3-1 lead and all but guaranteeing them a win for the first Group D game of the FIFA World Cup.
Uruguay became more panicked, more frantic, and Costa Rica kept striking, until the 93rd minute, when Maxi Pereira’s swipe-tackle on Joel Campbell earned him the first red card of the 2014 tournament. The final whistle followed a minute later, and Costa Rica celebrated a win that no one ever thought they would snag.
A lack of urgency combined with careless play and poor execution earned Uruguay their first loss of the tournament. Dedication, perseverance, and heart won Costa Rica a shocking upset over Uruguay and, until England and Italy take the field, the top spot in Group D for the 2014 World Cup.
Commentary by Christina Jones