There were surprises aplenty on the sands of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico in the semi-finals of the North, Central America and Caribbean qualifying tournament for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009.
Instead of host nation and favourites Mexico or northern neighbours the United States, it will be Costa Rica and El Salvador occupying the two CONCACAF berths at November's global showpiece in the United Arab Emirates. Los Ticos ended the Mexicans' campaign by coming through 2-1 in a shoot-out after a 2-2 draw, and they will meet Los Cuscatlecos in the final on 21 June after the Salvadorans sank the USA 5-3 in their semi-final.
And though it was less of a shock that the Stars and Stripes missed out, having already failed to reach Marseilles 2008, El Tricolor had reached the last two editions of the showpiece event and went all the way to the final at Rio de Janeiro 2007.
However, they were unable to contain Richard Sterling, who hit a brace, though goals from Isaac Rodriguez and Christopher Flores did take the game into a penalty shoot-out. After Costa Rica's Jeffrey Chavarria and Mexico's Ricardo Villalobos had traded successful spot-kicks, the hosts' Gustavo Rosales buckled under the pressure after Enzo Mora had put Los Ticos ahead once more.
El Salvador, for their part, needed a hat-trick from Agustin Ruiz and a double from Francisco Velasques to end the USA's bid. The North Americans replied via Raphael Xexeo (two) and Yuri Morales, and will be determined to salvage some pride in 21 June's play-off for third place against rivals Mexico.