By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Many have pointed to March’s snow-covered World Cup Qualifier in Colorado as the key momentum swing in the United States’ run of recent good form on the road to Brazil 2014.
You could also point to the 1-0 result at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park as a turning point for the loser of the now-famous blizzard match. Since that loss, Costa Rica has rocketed up to second place in the table with two home wins and a draw with Mexico at the Azteca.
Costa Rica kept the momentum going on Tuesday night with a 2-0 home win over Panama. After a physical and scoreless first half at a rain-soaked National Stadium in San Jose, Los Ticos scored two quick goals from distance to put away their frustrated visitors.
The win, which pushes second-place Costa Rica three points clear of Mexico heading into the final four qualifiers, delivered an important three points for a side trying to get back into the World Cup after a 2010 absence.
Captain Bryan Ruiz broke the deadlock in the 49th minute on a free kick. While the Panama wall was expecting a high, curling shot on goal, Ruiz drilled a low shot that splashed its way into the back of the net.
Three minutes later, Los Ticos were celebrating another goal. This time Ruiz set up midfielder Celso Borges, who hit an unbelievable long range effort into the corner of Jaime Penedo’s net.
Ruiz and Borges’s goals were the only two shots on goal Costa Rica had the entire match as Panama controlled the pace of play for the rest of the second half. The visitors put twice as many shots on goal as Costa Rica did on Tuesday night, but Keylor Navas was there to deny Panama all four times.
Second-place Costa Rica remains two points behind the HEX-leading United States, who will be seeking their first-ever road win against Los Ticos when they visit in September.
Fifth-place Panama, on the other hand, grabbed just one point from its June qualifiers after a hot start to the final round. Panama is two points back from Mexico and one point back from Honduras, who currently holds the playoff spot in the league table.
What did you make of this result? Impressed with Costa Rica’s good run since its loss to the United States? Surprised at Panama’s poor June? How do you see these two sides finishing in the table?
Share your thoughts below.