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Costa Rica boss Ronald Gonzalez: “We got commitment and confidence”
Action between Keysher Fuller of Costa Rica and Rangelo Maria Janga of Curazao on November 14, 2019 at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Willemstad, Curacao.
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WILLEMSTAD, Curacao — The result may not have been pretty, but it didn’t matter to Ronald Gonzalez.

The Costa Rica manager came into Thursday’s Concacaf Nations League match against Curacao knowing it wouldn’t be easy. It didn’t matter. The Ticos had to win to keep hope of moving into the summer’s semifinal alive.

Even with the boisterous crowd at the Ergilio Hato Stadium rooting against them and losing a man to a red card in the second half, Costa Rica got it done, topping the Caribbean side 2-1 and setting up a group-defining clash Sunday against Haiti.

“What we were interested in was winning today,” said Gonzalez, after being asked if he wished the team had won in a more attractive style. “With this result, we’re closer to first place, so right now I’m worried about winning.”

Things started well for Costa Rica, with Johan Venegas converting a penalty kick in the 14th minute, but Curacao responded quickly with Leandro Bacuna setting up Rangelo Janga for the 20th-minute equalizer.

That boosted the home side, which went into the halftime locker room with their heads up as the crowd urged them on to another goal.

“It was a really good win. We needed it. We knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Costa Rica midfielder Dylan Flores, who watched the game from the bench. “These teams are very strong mentally. After they tied the game, they were getting more confident and they made the match really tough for us.”

Flores and others who rested Thursday could be key going forward for the Ticos. To clinch the group, a result against Haiti is necessary. But with Haiti playing only one game during this international date, Marc Collat’s side is training in Costa Rica while Sunday’s home side is making its way back.

“We don’t have much time to plan the game. I need to make sure the players are well-rested, recovered,” Gonzalez said after the match. “Beyond that, getting my players recovered and making sure their legs are fresh again, it’s very important that our fans are with us Sunday in Tibas, that they push us and support us in the stadium.”

The plan will include ideas for a number of scenarios, with Gonzalez saying Thursday that he always has a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario. The worst-case was realized Thursday when Ricardo Blanco saw his second yellow card in the 64th minute and Costa Rica went down to 10 men.

After the ejection, Curacao looked like more likely to score, as attacking players took more liberties and Leandro Bacuna, the versatile No. 10 who played center back for Curacao in this contest, ventured further and further forward.

Yet the Ticos’ size advantage on set pieces eventually won out, with Francisco Calvo heading in a corner kick from Randal Leal in the 84th minute.

Gonzalez said his team is thrilled to take all three points after going down a man but also can learn plenty from the hard-fought game.

“You’ve got to shift around, make sure everything is still in order and of course the players’ efforts has to be at the max. Against a team like Curacao, with such good players, with such good technical skill and going a man down on the road, it’s really difficult,” he said. “But as a group, we rescued the result. That’s the biggest lesson. We got a lot as well besides just the three points in the commitment and confidence of the team.”

Now he hopes that confidence carries over into Sunday’s match against Haiti, when Costa Rica will look to get six points from this round of Nations League matches and lock up a spot in the first-ever CNL Final championship.

 
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