COSTA RICA NEWS – A familiar chorus echoed around RFK Stadium on Wednesday, one well known to aficionados in this corner of the soccer universe and introduced to a global audience this summer in Brazil.
“Ole, Ole-Ole-Ole, Ticos, Ticos!”
The melody started a little later than anticipated, but once the Ticos, Costa Rica’s national team, found their rhythm during a 3-0 victory over Nicaragua, a few thousand backers rediscovered their voices.
The triumph came in the first of three matches on the opening night of the Copa Centroamericana, a regional tournament held in the United States for the first time.
In the second game, Honduras defeated Belize, 2-0, on own goals two minutes apart in the first half. The late finale provided the most competitive pairing as Guatemala rode Marco Pappa’s two goals to a 2-1 victory over El Salvador before 20,516 spectators.
“Our start was slow, but in the second half, we were better,” Coach Paulo Wanchope said of Costa Rica’s first competition since it advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals in Brazil. “On paper, Nicaragua is easy, but they had too many players in the back. We didn’t have space, and we were too slow.”
Founded in 1991, the competition unites seven nations for a biennial trophy. Breaking from the tradition of rotating hosts, the region’s governing bodies looked to capitalize on the burgeoning expat communities in the United States and selected four U.S. venues: Washington, Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles, culminating with placement matches Sept. 13 at L.A. Coliseum.
Four teams will advance to next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, the larger regional competition featuring the United States and Mexico. A fifth team will enter a playoff for a Gold Cup berth. The champion also will earn a berth in the 2016 Copa America, the South American competition to be held in the United States for the first time.
Costa Rica and Honduras have combined to win 10 of the previous 12 Copa Centroamericana titles. Buoyed by appearances in the World Cup this year, they entered as clear favorites again.