Colombia 1-0 Costa Rica
Estadio 23 de Agosto, July 2nd – Group A
The second game of the 2011 Copa America saw Colombia take the lead at the top of Group A with a win over a mostly reserve Costa Rica side.
Colombia lined up in an adaptive 4-1-4-1 formation and looked to press Costa Rica. With the full-backs looking to provide width, the holding player Gustavo Bolivar would look to drop between or just ahead of the centre-backs, while Gustavo Ramos and Dayro Mauricio Moreno would move inside to give them more space and overload the middle, also regularly switching flanks when the full-backs didn’t push forward.
There were some echoes of the North Korean team that featured at the 2010 World Cup to Ricardo La Volpe’s Costa Rica. Just a reserve side, they clearly weren’t in the same class as Colombia but had arguably the better of the first half hour. They often looked scrappy when defending and their passes forward were often hopelessly overhit, but they managed some neat passing moves at times and their general set-up seemed to work for them. Opting to sit and let Colombia play in front of them instead of pressing high up the pitch, Costa Rica’s 3-5-2 gave them a strong defensive base – the three man defence gave them two spare men at the back, the five man midfield let them match Colombia’s midfield and the two strikers made it difficult for Colombia to pass out of defence.
Colombia often had seven players willing to attack but they struggled to get it to them. Balls hit out to the wings were often inaccurate, meaning they struggled to move the ball forward, with the Costa Rican strikers blocking passes into the midfield and forcing Bolivar deeper.
Sadly for the Costa Ricans, a poor challenge by Randall Brenes earnt him a red card, completely surrendering the momentum to Colombia. Rather than continuing to be patient and picking apart Costa Rica with their man advantage, Hernan Dario Gomez used the red card as a chance to bring on another attacker in Hugo Rodallega for midfielder Abel Aguilar, switching to a 4-2-4 and really threatening Costa Rica. The breakthrough finally came in the 44th minute, Ramos latching onto Fredy Guarin’s through ball and rounding the keeper to finish.
A man down and a lesser team, Costa Rica couldn’t muster much in the way of a reply and the game settled into Colombian domination, albeit with little real attacking threat, until the final whistle.
It certainly wasn’t a spectacular performance from Colombia, but they got the three points with relative ease once Costa Rica went down to ten men. After Argentina’s draw with Bolivia, the result puts Colombia in prime position for qualifying. They should beat Bolivia – but then Argentina should have too – so avoiding defeat in their next game against the hosts should see them progress as group leaders.