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July 03rd, 2014

World Cup Fever in Costa Rica

Tom Carroll, a former travel consultants shares his experience of the 2014 Football World Cup in Costa Rica!

When I heard about a trip to Costa Rica earlier this month my first thought was obviously to jump at the chance. Central America in general and Costa Rica in particularly, is somewhere that I have never been to and is a part of Latin America that has always held a big attraction for me. However, I soon realised that travelling in the middle of June would mean missing the World Cup, and missing watching the games in London. I had been looking forward to this tournament for four long years, and it was one that maybe England had a chance in!

But I needn’t have worried. First of all because it turned out that England were rubbish, so it was definitely better to be out of the country andWorld Cup fever in Costa Rica 2 avoid the depressed atmosphere of another World Cup failure. Secondly because it meant I could watch the incredible Costa Rica team, in Costa Rica. Here was a team that was much more than the sum of its parts and a collection of players who seemed to really want to play together and who knew that the whole country was behind them. Nobody had any great expectations but they played fantastic football in beating Uruguay and Italy and have quickly become the darlings of the tournament.

We arrived in Costa Rica on 15th July, unfortunately missing the 3-1 victory over Uruguay by just one day. But you could feel the buzz in the air and all anyone was talking about was the game the previous day. The streets were lined with the national colours, with flags everywhere, and pretty much the whole population was sporting their Costa Rica jersey. Most locals had expected a demoralising loss against Uruguay so to record such a comprehensive win was incredible and really caught the country’s imagination. Even people who had no interest in football were suddenly captivated and the whole country had turned into life-long football fans!

The next game was against Italy, where again there was little hope of a Costa Rica victory. I had a zip line scheduled for the morning but the guides and drivers all made sure that it would be finished by precisely 10am, right in time for the kick off! We had no time to get to a bar, being stuck up a mountain, so we decided that the best bet was to watch the game in the company’s cafe. At first the atmosphere was a bit tense with the crowd nervously waiting to see if the team could repeat their heroics of a couple of days earlier. But then Bryan Ruiz scored to make it 1-0 to Costa Rica, unleashing the screams and shouts of everyone assembled in the cafe. Despite the fact that all anyone was drinking was coffee, the place erupted as if we were in a bar in downtown San José. The team outplayed Italy throughout the match and held out for the win, taking Costa Rica through to the next round and sending England home in the process. It was slightly bittersweet for me, as an Italy victory would have kept alive England’s hopes of qualification, but seeing all the Costa Rica fans running about and hugging each other, I decided to forget about England and just become an honorary Tico.

There was still one match to go, what had become a dead rubber against England. The game didn’t have the same atmosphere as the previous matches, mainly because Costa Rica now found themselves playing against a second rate bunch and expected an easy win. Again I had an activity scheduled, a hike through Manuel Antonio National Park, and I have never seen anyone move as fast as the guide when he realised that he only had five minutes to get out of the park before the game started. We ran out and found a roadside bar, decked out in the national colours and with dozens of TV screens showing the game at all possible angles. The game was a turgid 0-0 draw, meaning Costa Rica went through to the next round, much to the delight of everyone there.

They beat Greece in the next round and the adventure continues against Holland on Saturday. This is the first time Costa Rica have got to the quarter finals of a World Cup and it is an incredible achievement. They play at 9pm on Saturday night and if they manage to win the celebrations in San José will be really something! Go Ticos!

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