Costa Rica (red jersey) celebrates after defeating Canada in a CONCACAF Under-17 Championship playoff on March 15, 2015, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Photo: Mexsport)
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – Costa Rica earned a FIFA U-17 World Cup berth for the first time since 2009, defeating Canada 3-0 in a CONCACAF Under-17 Championship playoff on Sunday at the Estadio Francisco Morazan.
The Ticos claimed the third of the Confederation’s four tickets to Chile 2015 with the last to be decided later in the day in another playoff between the United States and Jamaica. The tripleheader will conclude with the championship match pitting host Honduras against defending champion Mexico.
In an encounter that was contested more closely than the result would suggest, the Central Americans took a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute. From 35-yards out on the left, Jonathan Martinez lofted a right-sided free kick onto the edge of the six-yard box. Luis Hernandez caught everyone by surprise, backheading the ball on a bounce into the far-side netting.
Ten minutes later, Andy Reyes – one of the CU17’s most outstanding players – struck for his fifth goal of the tournament. Once again, it was Martinez providing exceptional service, freezing the Canadian defense with a brilliant chip into the right side of the box. As he’s done so often, Reyes demonstrated ruthless finishing ability by depositing a right-footed shot inside the left post from six-yards out.
Rather than lower their heads down, Canada started to create chances.
Costa Rica goalkeeper Alejandro Barrientos was called upon to make two stunning saves in a matter of minutes. He thwarted right-back Gabriel Boakye off a well-crafted give-and-go at the half-hour mark and saved Tristan Borges’ 25-yard free kick from the right side shortly afterwards.
Ballou Tabla nearly halved the deficit in the 71st minute with what would have been one of the goals of the competition, only to be halted by the magnificent Barrientos as well. On this occasion, the talented 15-year-old midfielder took possession 25 yards within his own end. He embarked on a rampaging run that resulted in him uncorking a shot from the top of the 18-yard box that Barrientos tipped away.
The game was decided for all intents and purposes in the 73rd minute, when Kosovar Sadiki rolled an innocuous looking backpass from 40-yards out to Luciano Trasolini. The goalkeeper, however, lifted his right foot, allowing the ball entry into the back of the net.
Costa Rica improved to 6W-0D-1L in games after a draw in the same CU17 tournament, while Canada missed out on qualifying for the U-17 World Cup for the first time in its last three attempts.