Costa Rica became the fourth and final team from North, Central America and Caribbean to qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 on Sunday. They will join Group A toppers the United States and Honduras after finishing second behind the host Mexicans in Group B of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Tijuana.
Even before the Central Americans kicked off in the late game on 26 April against Mexico, they knew they only needed to avoid a heavy defeat to seal a place in the global junior showpiece in West Africa. Guatemala's 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago earlier in the day left them with four points, the same number as the hopeful Ticos. However, the Costa Ricans went into their last game with a four-goal edge in the tie-breaker category of goal difference, meaning the Guatemalans were praying for the Mexicans to win and run up a big score on their main rivals.
In the end, Guatemala were left ruing their bad luck and the Costa Ricans - who lost out 1-0 to Mexico after a 61st minute own goal - were celebrating a job done. The slim loss was enough to see them edge through to Nigeria.
The African finals will be the eighth appearance for Costa Rica at a U-17 World Cup, a best among teams from the Central American sub-region. In their last outing, at Peru 2005, the Ticos won their group before losing out to eventual champions Mexico in the quarter-finals.
Next week was supposed to see the semi-final rounds of the CONCACAF Championship played out in Tijuana, with Group B winners Mexico taking on Honduras, and the USA - winners from the other section - taking on Costa Rica. However, an outbreak of swine flu in Mexico caused officials from the confederation to cancel the remainder of the competition.