On a chilly night in Jujuy, a young Costa Rica side bounced back from their opening Group A defeat against Colombia to sink Bolivia 2-0 and claim their first three points of the Copa America 2011. The victory over La Verde, who had held hosts Argentina to a shock 1-1 draw in their opener, enabled Los Ticos to pay a fitting tribute to former team-mate Dennis Marshall – part of the Costa Rica squad at the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup and who passed away after a car accident on 23 June.
“Dennis was an excellent team-mate, a really great person who gave it everything he had out on the pitch. Today we grafted like he used to do and fortunately we were able to win the game. All this is for him,” said 18-year-old rising star Joel Campbell. The gifted No12, who shared a dressing room with Marshall at the Gold Cup and will take part in the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011, was the man of the match and one of the instigators of Los Ticos' tribute to their late colleague.
Indeed, after firing home with his left foot in the 78th minute to seal the vital win, the Deportivo Saprissa forward urged his team-mates to form a circle and raise the No20 shirt, currently worn by Pedro Leal but which used to belong to Marshall, into the air. “I looked up at the heavens and we all dedicated it to him. I’m sure he’s looking down at us from above,” added Campbell on Marshall, who was plying his club trade for Danish side Aalborg BK and had scored for Costa Rica against Honduras at the Gold Cup.
Quarter-finals within reach?
Given their overwhelmingly youthful squad and having kicked off their campaign with defeat against Los Cafeteros, few had given Ricardo La Volpe’s charges much of a chance prior to the Bolivia game. Yet the victory means Los Ticos are still in the running for a place in the last eight going into their final group match against Argentina.
“Before this win we weren’t as bad as people thought, and we’re not as great as they’re saying now,” said La Volpe afterwards. “This is a lengthy work-in-progress, and we’ve got a lot of ground still to cover. We mustn’t get carried away after just one good performance. We’ve improved, but we need to keep working hard.”
The Argentinian-born coach, who was reserve goalkeeper in La Albiceleste squad which won the 1978 FIFA World Cup™ on home soil, could therefore prove instrumental in denying his homeland a spot in the next round. “As soon as they drew with Colombia, we knew Argentina would go all out against us,” said La Volpe, looking ahead to the 11 July match in Cordoba.
“The fact that we won [against Bolivia] takes some of the pressure off them, because they now know their fate’s in their own hands. If they beat us, they’ll reach the next phase. That said, we don’t intend to roll over: we’ve come here to compete and we want to stay in the tournament too.”