Thursday, October 15, 2009

Egypt 2009: Costa Rica/Hungary for 3rd /4th place

Before the mega grand finale, there is always the 3rd and 4th place. I know, many of you feel that the 3rd/4th place match is completely unnecessary and should be scrapped because nobody really wants to come back on the field after missing the big one.

But hey, that's the way it is. Costa Rica play Hungary and I think these two sides have been just fantastic in the way they have approached this tournament.

Costa Rica

They came, line may others, with high hopes of doing well. The main feature of their game is an attacking spice. They also pride themselves in a tight defensive assurance and these two attributes led them to the top of the CONCACAF championships before they arrived in Egypt.

But in their first game, they were humbled by a ruthless Brazil. Dazed and bruised, the Ticos were led by Marcos Urena and David Guzman to see of Australia 3-0 in the following game. Inexplicably, coach Ronald Gonzalez's men were beaten 3-2 by the Czech Republic in the last group game.

Though they lost two of three group stages games, the guys from the CONCACAF went through and met hosts Egypt in the round of 16. They closed their ears to the partisan noise of the Arabs and beat them well by 2-0. The hosts were out and the Ticos' confidence was sky high.

And then, the quarters. United Arab Emirates had surprised everyone by getting this far and the shock could not extend to Gonzalez's boys. 2-1 it ended and it was the unbeaten Brazil Costa Rica had to face.

The performance they put up last Tuesday was Hellenic, but Rogerio Lourenco's Selecao were just too good and Alan Kardec's goal made it a double. They were keen to improve on their first-round exit last time out at Canada 2007, sadly, the hope of a historic finale was dead and so tomorrow they would have to settle for third or fourth.


Now, this is a team, that did exceed expectations in the qualfying for this tournament. The unfancied central Europeans, playing in the tournament for the first time, advanced to the semi-final, even managing to beat Spain 1-0 during the group stages.

So it is with that awareness of themselves that they descended upon Egypt. Like Costa Rica, they were beaten in their first game, 3-0 by Honduras. Like Costa Rica, they rallied in their second game and beat their opponents, South Africa by a convincing 4-0 margin.

Chief in the raid was Kristain Nemeth who has been loaned by Liverpool to AEK Athens. Hungary finished the group strongly with a 2-0 win over the UAE to go through to the next phase.

After finishing tops in Group F, Czech Republic was next in the round of 16. These two knew each other from the European qualifiers and so they played an entertaining game. It ended 2-2 after a thrilling 120 minutes and the central Europeans went through 6-5 on penalties. Heartbreak for Czech Republic, good news for Hungary.

To the quarters, where another continental foe awaited: Italy. In another show of spirit (and with some luck, too) Hungary dispatched the Azzurinni 3-2 after extra time.

Going through on thin threads might have meant they were a lucky side, but it run out when they met Ghana on Tuesday. Dominic Adiyiah used the Hungary side to increase his tally to 8. Yet, the Europeans showed more grit and got two goals but Ghana had it. It ended 3-2 for the Africans.

So, in tomorrow's game, we expected pride to be played for especially as Hungary have not been in the first four of a FIFA sanctioned tournament in over 20 years. Costa Rica have a story to tell when they go back home.

We wait and see.

Preview of the grand finale later.