Despite showing brave resistance throughout, Costa Rica came up just short when attempting to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit in the return match of their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ play-off with Uruguay at Montevideo's Estadio Centenario.
It was Saturday 14 November's reverse at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa that cost them so dear, as it enabled the Uruguayans to dictate proceedings in the return. And as the dust settled after the 1-1 second-leg draw, both players and media were united in their agreement that Los Ticos gave it their very best shot in the Uruguayan capital, while sharing the disappointment at missing out on next year's showpiece.
"Drawing in the Centenario was an empty consolation" was the headline in Costa Rican paper La Nación, who went on to add that "...La Tricolor left it too late. They didn't shake off the shackles until they were losing 1-0 and only then started launching desperate attacks. But the team fell short. Much more was needed to secure a World Cup spot."
"Losing the first leg gave Los Ticos a mountain to climb," continued the daily publication, before adding that "for some reason, after the interval they forgot how to play football. Only the finishing of Walter Centeno got them back in it."
Newspaper Al Día led with the headline "Miracles don't exist" before saying that "the national team are out of the race. Their desire, pride and endeavour were not enough to take them to South Africa." This verdict was accompanied by an image of keeper Keylor Navas sprawled on the Centenario turf, visibly lamenting his team’s exit.
Taking a harsher line was the Diario Extra, whose headline of "Four years in the shadows" was followed by the analysis that "the plane to South Africa 2010 passed close to our team, but the fact they didn't get on was down to them alone. Their ticket didn't slip from their hands yesterday on Uruguayan soil, the national team have been playing with fire for a while and they got burnt. The results are there for all to see."
Time for change
Also acutely feeling the disappointment of how events panned out at the Centenario were the players and coaching staff themselves. Costa Rica's star man Bryan Ruiz, his face a picture of dejection, had this to say in the aftermath: "It's a really difficult time, today we fought so hard. We've now got to pick ourselves up and make changes to keep pushing forward."
For his part, Tico coach Rene Simoes felt that La Tricolor's lack of street-smarts was what cost them dear. "We were really lacking that nastiness, the kind that South American players have. And I can say that, because I’m Brazilian. The problem was the first leg, we gave Uruguay far too much respect. They (the media) said we had no chance over here but we showed that we did, though it was too late."