NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia (Reuters) - With the pressure off, eliminated Costa Rica played freer, more adventurous football in their farewell World Cup Group E game against Switzerland on Wednesday, said coach Oscar Ramirez.
The Central Americans, the only team who had yet to score in Russia, finally broke their duck when defender Kendall Waston powered home Joel Campbell’s corner in the 56th minute. Then during stoppage time Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz’s penalty struck the bar and went in off goalkeeper Yann Sommer’s back for an own goal and 2-2.
“It is not the same playing a game when you have something to lose when you have nothing at stake. Today was our farewell match. Today I think that our team was playing without pressure, they played more freely, I think... It was a different game,” Ramirez told reporters.
Costa Rica lost both their opening games, although their 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.
“Our group was very tough. We have had several opportunities and we could have had different results but that is the way football works,” Ramirez said.
The coach became emotional towards the end of the press conference, lauding hosts Russia and mourning Costa Rica’s early exit. In the 2014 World Cup, Costa Rica exited unbeaten in open play after their first-ever quarter-final.
“We have to go home. We didn’t want to go home,” said Ramirez.
But he added that at least his side had picked up plenty of new fans in Russia.
“I wanted to say thank you to the supporters from Russia, it was beautiful to see all of them supporting us. I don’t know why but Costa Rica is a team that is quite liked abroad. Maybe it’s the way we are. People like us.”
Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer