ORLANDO – Paraguay was looking for a win against Costa Rica in their opening match to stand a chance in Copa America Centenario’s group of death, but left with just a point after failing to produce after a dominant first half.
The South Americans pressed Costa Rica early on Saturday to the surprise of many, but the Group A match ended in a scoreless draw at Camping World Stadium. Costa Rica will surely be frustrated with just a point against Paraguay, a team perceived to be the weakest in the group. On top of what was a poor attacking display, the Ticos also lost center back Kendall Waston to a red card in stoppage time.
Paraguay came out of the gates strong, creating several chances through fluid midfield play from Derlis Gonzalez and Oscar Romero. Ramon Diaz’s side were in the match for three points, playing an aggressive high line and putting the Costa Ricans under pressure early and often.
In the buildup to Saturday’s match at Camping World Stadium, the talk was all about Costa Rica’s loss of Keylor Navas. Viewers would’ve thought the CONCACAF team lost a few midfielders, though, with the way in which they conceded the first half possession battle to Paraguay.
The first bonafide goalscoring opportunity came for Paraguay in the 13th minute, when Gonzalez slid the ball in to Edgar Benitez deep in the box, but the striker’s poor shot was cleared out of danger for a corner.
The Costa Ricans failed to find each other in the attacking third, with long passing sequences coming few and far between in the first half. Oscar Ramirez’s men benefitted heavily from the forced stoppages with the water break and halftime, as Paraguay were never
Past the hour mark, it became obvious that the Ticos were gaining a foothold on the game. Their chances were becoming more frequent and dangerous, as their opponents likely tired from the early high press that was so successful.
Costa Rica’s best chances came just after Vancouver Whitecaps winger Christian Bolanos entered the match. Bolanos drove down the field and earned a throw in a dangerous area with his first touches, but Celso Ortiz’s resulting cross was met by a weak headed attempt from Kendall Waston in the area.
Another great chance came immediately from the impact sub as Bolanos fired a low hard shot from about 30 yards out just minutes later.
The stoppage time ejection for Waston capped off the disappointing match for the Ticos, after the towering center back scissor kicked Paraguay’s Nelson Valdez in midfield.
Following this result, the Costa Ricans will face off against the USMNT at Soldier Field on Tuesday, while Paraguay takes on Colombia on the same day.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Paraguay keeper Justo Villar made saves when he needed to in the team’s Group A opener. The 38-year-old managed four stops on the afternoon.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Villar wasn’t tested often in the Paraguay net, but he came up huge in the 87th minute when Christian Bolanos unleashed a powerful effort from distance. Villar turned the shot aside, preserving a point.
MATCH TO FORGET
The two sides were just moments away from their eventual 0-0 draw, but Kendall Waston‘s challenge on Nelson Valdez in stoppage time saw the Whitecaps defender sent off. It wasn’t a wise choice from the Ticos defender.