(ABOVE) Costa Rica's Marco Ureña (pictured) in World Cup Qualifying action against host Panama on November 17, 2015, in Panama City.
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Two games played, two wins.
That’s the start Costa Rica wanted to open its campaign for a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and that’s what it achieved.
The Ticos followed up last month’s confidence building 1-0 victory over the United States in a friendly with a pair of one-goal triumphs in qualifying, defeating Haiti at home (1-0) and topping Panama on the road (2-1).
“We had a deserved victory,” head coach Oscar Ramirez said after Tuesday’s performance in Panama City. “We managed the halves well on a difficult field. A great group of guys. The work and the calmness to manage the match weighed heavily.”
On the way to becoming the only CONCACAF team to lead one of the three fourth-round groups by three points, Ramirez used 17 players over the two games, seven starting in both.
“We have made it so they all feel like starters,” stressed Ramirez, who played for Costa Rica in the 1990 World Cup. “We have players with World Cup experience. That is important. Some have gone through three or four qualifying cycles. The opponent came at us and we had to be more defensive, but we got the result.”
The former Alajuelense manager, however, cautioned that it is still very early in the process to think about advancing to the next round.
“We know that this is the second match of this quadrangular,” Ramirez finished, before expressing solidarity with his Central American counterparts. “We are going step by step with humility. The differences between teams were narrowed a long time ago.
“I hope that both Panama and Costa Rica qualify, first us and then Panama.”