5 games into the hex, Costa Rica were in perfect position. They were on top of the group with 12 points, winning all three of their home fixtures, and were the only team in the hex to win a game on the road. This, along with their undefeated record in the previous stage had Ticos the world over dreaming of success in the hex and in South Africa. The sentiment in Costa Rica was not if they would qualify for the world cup, but how early. Not bad for a team in transition.
They sent a pretty strong team to the Gold Cup, a mix of veterans and youngsters, but were ousted on spot kicks by eventual champs Mexico. A few weeks later, they went over to Honduras to resume their coronation. They had opened the hex with an easy 2-0 victory over Honduras and had enjoyed success in tierra catracha in the past. But Honduras had other plans. The 4-0 loss was painful, but catastrophic. The Ticos were still in 1st place.
No worries, right. The hated Mexicans were coming to the Tico fortress. Not only would Costa Rica get one step closer with a win, but they could send Mexico that much further away from one of the automatic spots. Unfortunately for Costa Rica, Giovani Dos Santos had the best individual performance of the Hex – scoring one goal and assisting on two others in Mexico’s 3-0 win. The loss sent Costa Rica tumbling all the way down to 4th. To make matters worse, their 7 goals received put their goal differential in the red. Good luck winning that tie breaker.
4 days later it was El Salvador’s turn to add to the Tico misery. A stoppage time winner by La Selecta not only gave them life in the hex, it ended the reign of Costa Rica coach, Rodrigo Kenton. What had started out so brilliantly had categorically cratered. Faced with a very possible extension of their world cup qualifying campaign, the FCF wanted to bring a seasoned world cup veteran coach. Last week, Eduardo Li Sanchez, the President, was on ESPN Deportes radio, teasing the choice they had made: a coach who knows the area, and is a world cup veteran.
After running through the coaches the fit the description in my head, it hit me.
Oh, my goodness, I thought. They got Bora.
Who better than Bora to come in on such short notice and try to squeeze some positive results. He fit the bill. He knows the area, is a world cup veteran, and his work this summer with Iraq was very, very respectable.
But not the move they made.
They brought in that coaching stalwart, Rene Simoes. He took the Reggae Boyz to the France98, and coached them again last year. He was fired for using too many young players in the semifinal round. John Barnes was hired; he turned to his veterans and Jamaica came within goal differential of eliminating Mexico in the last round.
Definitely not the same cachet as Bora.
I’ll admit it. I like Bora. I always have. He coached my team, Pumas, when they were the kings of my universe. He performed miracles for Mexico, Costa Rica and the US in consecutive World Cups. I never really understood why Mexico fired Bora in his second tour of duty after qualifying them to France98.
If the US were in the position to need at least a tie to advance vs. Costa Rica next month, the last person I would want to see on the other bench is Bora.
A 2 game playoff would be a lot more entertaining with Bora moving his pieces, especially if Maradona is in the other box. It would have been a brilliant move.