Bolivia 0 – 2 Costa Rica
Estadio 23 de Agosto, July 7th – Group A
The match wasn’t exactly the glamour clash of the group, and the first half showed why, but a livelier second half left some interest going into the last games of the group.
Bolivia set-up in a simple 4-4-2, the only change from the game against Argentina being Juan Carlo Arce replacing Joselito Vaca, with Edivaldo Rojas moving from the forward position to Vaca’s place on the right of midfield.
Costa Rica set up in an interesting 3-5-2 shape. There were obviously the three centre-backs and right wing-back Jose Andres Salvatierra, but then midfielder Pedro Leal would drop into the left back position when they defended, while Diego Madrigal played high on the left wing. David Guzman and Heiner Mora played in the centre, but one would often head out to the right in or out of possession – at first this was Guzman, but towards the end of the first half it was Mora who headed right while Guzman played the holding role.
This sometimes created an interesting predicament when Bolivia’s goalkeeper or one of the defenders tried to pass out of the defence, as the Costa Rican front four would look to pick up the defenders – Madrigal on Lorgio Alvarez, Joel Campbell and Josue Martinez on the centre-backs and Mora or Guzman on Luis Alberto Gutierrez – making it difficult for them to move the ball forward, at least until one of Walter Flores or Jaime Robles dropped deeper. Once one of the centre midfielders got the ball, the Costa Rican front four would look to close in around him, leaving the defenders free for a pass. In one instance, Bolivia went from having no options to pass to to having almost scored in a matter of seconds due to this simple bit of movement from the midfielders.
This was only occasional, mind. The first half was very dull not because either team were trying to kill off the game, but because neither had the quality to control it. Misplaced passes gifted the ball to the opposition, only for them to give it back near immediately. It’s tempting to say that if either team had bothered to press intensely the deadlock would have been broken much earlier, such were the frequency of unpressurised mistakes.
Towards the end of the first half, Ricardo La Volpe moved Campbell, his most talented player who had been mostly anonymous until then, to the left wing, where Madrigal had seen quite a bit of the ball but done little with it, with Madrigal moving into the centre of midfield to make a 3-6-1 shape. The change gave Campbell the chance to run directly at players, which helped him and made Costa Rica look better, but tactics had little to do with Martinez’s opener: it was just really poor defending. More poor defending gave Costa Rica a penalty and left Bolivia a man down, while the defending for the second was also poor, albeit understandably so given the circumstances.
After Ronald Rivero was sent off, they changed to a 3-4-2, but of course it didn’t last for long until it became a 3-3-2 with the sending off of Flores. Not that it mattered: two goals, and men, down, Bolivia had no chance of getting back into the game, and so the rest of the game was of little consequence.
Not a classic by any means, however it does leave Group A looking interesting going into the last game. If Costa Rica can avoid defeat in their last game, hosts Argentina will end the Copa America below a team of under-23s and possibly out of the competition – they could even finish bottom of the group if Bolivia somehow snatch a win against Colombia.