Holding a 1-0 edge from last week's win on the road in San Jose, the Uruguayans were always favourites to finish the job at their Estadio Centenario on Wednesday. And the two-time world champion Charrúas did not disappoint their passionate fans, drawing 1-1 on the night to secure a 2-1 win on aggregate and reach their first FIFA World Cup™ finals since Korea/Japan 2002. Costa Rica – who led the CONCACAF final round for months on end – will have to spend the coming months contemplating their spectacular collapse, having missed out on next year's finals after reaching the last two editions.
The match began with the home side controlling all of the possession and creating a number of decent chances inside the first ten minutes. Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas had to be at his best to keep out a thunderous drive from 40 yards in the eighth minute, before Diego Godin had the net-minder working again with a fine header from the resulting corner-kick.
After weathering the early storm, however, the visiting Ticos began to settle the ball down and head forward in search of a goal. Junior Diaz fired a vicious shot from 30 yards midway through the half that slipped just wide of the post with goalkeeper Nestor Muslera well and truly beaten. Christian Bolanos then had another opportunity in the 36th minute that Muslera did well to keep out. Both sides were creating fine chances in a surprisingly open first half, but as the interval approached the hosts were in the ascendancy. Luis Suarez missed from 18 yards after being fed in the area by Nicolas Lodeiro, before Diego Forlan's first touch let him down when he looked clear through on goal with seconds to go before the break.
The second half began with a flurry of attack from the home side, and within six minutes they had a golden opportunity to open the scoring. Sebastian Eguren rose highest in the Costa Rica penalty area, but he could only push his header wide of the post when it seemed easier to score. Minutes later, Forlan's feisty snapshot from the edge of the box forced Navas into a fine save.
Substitute Sebastian Abreu came into the contest in the 65th minute and made an immediate impact for the hosts. After nearly opening the scoring with his first touch, the Greece-based striker known as 'El Loco' made no mistake with his second effort, heading home from Andres Scotti's cross in the 70th minute.
It took the Costa Ricans only four minutes to respond with a goal of their own, Walter Centeno firing home after some confusion in the Uruguayan back line. In the end, though, it was not enough for the brave Ticos, who miss out on the world finals for the first time since France 1998. Uruguay, for their part, make their way back to the global extravaganza after missing out on Germany 2006.
"We are used to suffering, and this time was no different,” said Diego Perez after the game. "The first leg win in San Jose proved to be key, but we had to be able to hold on to the result in the face of a powerful Costa Rican fight tonight.”