By TIM FONTENAULT
Uruguay kept Costa Rica out of the FIFA World Cup in 2010, which clearly did not sit well with the pesky CONCACAF side.
Even without injured scoring expert Álvaro Saborío, Los Ticos provided the 2014 World Cup with its first major upset on Saturday, as Joel Campbell led Costa Rica back from a halftime deficit to beat the No. 7 team in the world, 3-1, at the Estadio Castelão in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Midway through the third day of the tournament, CONCACAF is the only confederation that remains undefeated. Teams from South America, Africa, Europe and Asia have all lost, while Costa Rica and their North American brethren, Mexico, both won their opening matches.
Early on, Uruguay looked capable of living up to their reputation as a fearsome attacking side, even without star forward Luis Suarez, who is still not fully fit after knee surgery 23 days ago.
His powerful strike partner, Edison Cavani, had a chance to put Uruguay ahead within the first 20 minutes, but the PSG striker looked like a spinning top as he went for the ball. Cavani lunged towards the ball, barely made contact and then went spinning and tumbling out of control as the ball went out of play.
Costa Rica, despite all their protests, conceded a penalty minutes later, when Júnior Diaz pulled down Diego Lugano as the two went for the ball when it was played into the box from a free kick. Keylor Navas correctly guessed that Cavani would go to the bottom right corner with his spot kick, but to stop El Matador is a Herculean task, one Navas was not up for as Cavani gave Uruguay the lead.
Uruguay nearly doubled its advantage in the 44th minute. Diego Forlan attempted a shot from the left corner of the box that was deflected by Oscar Duarte, but the ball nearly looped into the goal, stopped only by a Superman save from Navas.
Duarte had an incredible opportunity to level for Costa Rica less than five minutes into the second half. A free kick from nearly 40 yards out landed perfectly for the defender at the corner of the six-yard box, but his header went right at Fernando Muslera. Duarte got the ball back off the save, but his rebound effort went across the face of goal, nowhere close to hitting the back of the net.
Costa Rica was down, but with Campbell on the pitch, never out.
The 21-year-old, surely growing tired of hearing the words “on loan from Arsenal,” probably caught the attention of Arsène Wegner with a thunderous strike in the 54th minute that leveled the match. Campbell, who barely missed from 30 yards out in the first half, collected the ball in the middle of the box and fired a left-footed strike passed the helpless Muslera.
Three minutes later, Costa Rica took the lead, with Duarte making up for his earlier mishap. This time, there was no stopping his header from almost the same spot. Duarte got on the end of a brilliantly-placed free kick from Christian Bolaýos and nestled the shot just inside the far post.
Uruguay’s Martin Caceres avoided serious punishment from referee Felix Brych with less than 10 minutes to play. The Juventus man went in recklessly against Cristian Gamboa, sliding in with his studs up. The German lawyer overseeing the match decided to spare Caceres, giving him a yellow card.
But even without the sending off, Campbell was able to complete his legendary performance and seal Costa Rica’s finest win in the 84th minute with a brilliant through ball into the path of substitute Marco Ureña. All the center forward had to do was tap the ball past the charging Muslera. Before the ball could cross the line, Costa Ricans had already begun their teary celebrations.
Uruguay lost its composure at that point. In the 94th minute, Maxi Pereira was sent off for kicking Campbell in the shin as he tried to swing at the ball, which he was not even close to getting.