Following Saturday’s 1-0 away win in the first leg of the CONMEBOL/CONCACAF play-off for South Africa 2010, Uruguay are determined to see the job through when they host Costa Rica in tonight's return match in Montevideo. A draw will be enough to take Los Charrúas to the finals, while the visitors know that nothing less than victory will do for them. A 1-0 Tico win will take the tie into extra time and should the Costa Ricans prevail by any other scoreline, they will go through, with away goals coming into the reckoning.
Saturday’s meeting at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa was high on intensity from the kick-off, with the visitors seeing more of the ball. Just when it seemed that the Central Americans were coming back into the game, Uruguay landed a potentially decisive blow by snatching the lead through Diego Lugano.
Despite a second-half revival led by an inspired Brian Ruiz and the elusive Cristian Bolanos, Costa Rica could find no way through a typically well-drilled Uruguayan rearguard despite creating several presentable chances. Hampered by Randall Azofeifa's 52nd-minute sending-off, the hosts were fortunate not to concede a second as they pressed forward, however, with Diego Forlan passing up two fine opportunities to put the tie out of reach.
As Celeste defender Diego Godin told FIFA.com earlier this week, Uruguay will not let their slender lead lull them into a false sense of security. "We have the advantage, for sure, but this is no time for us to start relaxing," warned the Villarreal player. "If we go into the game thinking we've done the hard part, then we'll most probably end up having problems."
As for Los Ticos, they have no option but to go for broke. Inspired by memories of El Aztecazo, their famous 2-1 qualifying win at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City that took them to Korea/Japan 2002, Rene Simoes' side are now setting their sights on storming the Centenario, an equally imposing footballing fortress. As a signal of their intent, the Costa Ricans travelled to the Uruguayan capital three days ago to get acclimatised and were put through their paces by coach Simoes in a double training session on Tuesday.
The star players
With Forlan unusually quiet in the first leg, it was left to Luis Suarez and Alvaro Pereira to spearhead the Uruguay attack, though their outstanding performers on the day were to be found at the back, where Godin and Diego Lugano produced intelligent, polished displays to keep the visitors at bay.
Costa Rica's star man in San Jose was Ruiz. The tireless Twente striker was at the heart of all their best moves and came close twice to piercing the visitors' back line. Ruiz received some sterling support from Bolanos, though the full-back could have done with keeping a cooler head at decisive moments. If Costa Rica are to achieve anything at the Centenario, they will need to produce a better all-round performance.
3 - The number of games Uruguay have won at the Centenario in the last two years. Los Charrúas have drawn twice at their Montevideo stronghold in that time and lost twice, though those two reverses did come at the hands of Brazil and Argentina.
"Uruguay went to Costa Rica and won in front of a full stadium so why can't we go and do the same thing? It would be a real achievement to win at the Centenario and we’re ready to go out and do just that," Costa Rica coach Rene Simoes.
"We knew it was important to go and get a good result so we could put ourselves in the position we are in now. They have to come to Uruguay now with everything against them, and all we need to do is keep our feet on the ground and finish what we started there," Uruguay defender Diego Godin.