NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia (Reuters) - Costa Rica exited the last World Cup unbeaten in open play with a first ever quarter-final, the scalps of two former champions, and some tidy football that mocked their underdog status.
This time, they are eliminated after two games and facing stinging criticism back home that is taking a toll on their irked coach and disappointed players in the run-up to a final Group E match against Switzerland on Wednesday.
“I feel hurt and disappointed at the same time ... People have said very uncomfortable things,” coach Oscar Ramirez said at a pre-match news conference at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, dismissing some calls on social media for him to resign.
In contrast to their glorious run in Brazil - which included wins over Uruguay and Italy - Costa Rica have failed to score and lost to both Serbia and Brazil in their opening games.
“I wanted to make our country happy, I really didn’t want to go through what we have gone through. We had a very tough group ... I have tried the best I can, I am sleeping fine,” Ramirez added.
“In our country, people are very emotional ... But if they call me a coward and unbearable things ... if they go for my family, then I will show the tiger inside.”
Though Costa Rica have lacked the dazzle they showed four years ago, their opening defeat by Serbia was only by one goal, and they were drawing 0-0 with Brazil until two injury time goals by Philippe Coutinho and Neymar.
“I think that we performed well, considering ... of course there are many details to improve. But to be here is an opportunity. If you are here, that is wonderful.”
Defender Kendall Waston said players were trying to shut out the noise from back home and focus on going out with a good result against the Swiss who need a draw to reach the last 16.
“We don’t want things that are being said on social media to affect the group. We are very united,” he said. “We are quite calm because we have done our best to play for the shirt... The beauty is that Costa Rica was part of the World Cup.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar