The article has been updated, so, here's the newer version
Costa Rican coach sour after Canadian win at Gold Cup soccer opener
By NEIL DAVIDSON
Costa Rica's Gilberto Martinez, left, heads the ball away from Canada's Paul Staiteri (7) in the first half during the first round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Saturday Foxboro, Mass. (AP/Jim Rogash)
FOXBORO, Mass. (CP) - A 59th-minute goal by Paul Stalteri gave Canada a 1-0 win over Costa Rica on Saturday, and perhaps paved the way for the upstart Canadians to make some noise again at the Gold Cup.
The upset victory allows the Canadians to thumb their nose at the world soccer rankings, which currently has them slumming alongside Jordan and Latvia.
The Central Americans are ranked 18th, 60 places above the blue-collar Canadians.
The Ticos are also rated third in CONCACAF, behind only the U.S. and Mexico in the confederation that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. Canada is ranked ninth in the region.
The 12-team Gold Cup is the championship of CONCACAF.
Perhaps most importantly from Saturday's win, the product of some criminally sloppy finishing by Costa Rica and Stalteri's goal against the run of play, Canada goes into Monday night's game against Cuba (6:30 p.m. EDT) with the upper hand in the three-team Group D.
Canada would have a much easier route in the quarter-finals if it wins its group.
A second-place finish would likely mean a date with the defending champion Americans. Topping the group could mean a far friendlier matchup against No. 85 El Salvador or Martinique, which is not a member of FIFA and has no ranking.
Coach Holger Osieck is not thinking past No. 63 Cuba, however.
"We'll have to perform on Monday as well, there's no ifs and buts," he said. "I've seen Cuba twice and we should not make the mistake of underrating them."
Cuba has never won a game - or made it past the first round - in two trips to the Gold Cup, which serves as the CONCACAF championship.
Canada was an upstart winner of the Gold Cup in 2000 and finished third last year.
Stalteri scored after a defender failed to cut off an attack launched by a long ball from Jason Bent.
Stalteri, the Werder Bremen dynamo playing in an attacking midfield role, held off a defender and coolly tucked the ball past goalkeeper Ricardo Gonzalez.
The Canadian cause was aided by a slew of missed chances by the Costa Ricans, whose starting 11 included nine members of their 2002 World Cup squad, which was beaten 2-0 by China, tied Turkey 1-1 and lost 5-2 to eventual winner Brazil in one of the most entertaining games of the tournament.
Canada's record against Costa Rica was 3-5-4 after Saturday's victory.
The Costa Ricans outshot Canada 13-6 but only 4-3 in shots on target.
After a first half in which Canada missed two glorious chances of its own and Costa Rica rattled the goalpost, the Central Americans came out blazing.
The Ticos slashed into the penalty box again and again, only to misfire in front of net.
Winston Parks, a striker from Locomotiv Moscow, had a particularly miserable afternoon. He was substituted in the 62nd minute after yet another miscue that let the Canadians off the hook.
Osieck wasn't surprised that such a talented Costa Rican side carried more of the play, especially in the second half.
"That's no miracle," he said.
After Stalteri's goal, Canada concentrated on defence, blunting their frustrated opponents.
"We resisted and we showed a lot of heart," said Osieck. "Considering the fact that we had just one week (preparation) and a scrimmage against a local team, it was a tremendous performance."
The Costa Ricans started the game in style, stroking the ball around and showing off some party tricks.
Gilberto Martinez used a nifty backheel to beat his marker while Walter Centeno slipped the ball between Nick Dasovic's legs - all in the first six minutes.
But they couldn't find the net - and Canada refused to budge.
Costa Rica's American coach Steve Sampson saw little to commend in either team's performance. He criticized his team's lack of finishing and dumped on Canada's tactics.
His take on the Canadian men is they will never succeed at the highest level if they continued to play that style.
"I think the style of football that we played today is the style of soccer that allowed Costa Rica to be competitive during the qualifying rounds of the World Cup," he said. "I think it's very difficult to play the style of soccer that Canada is playing and expect to play against the best teams in the world.
"They did what they had to do to win the match. Sometimes that gets you through a game. Even sometimes that gets you through a tournament. But I don't think in the long run that that is the style of soccer that allows you to be one of the best in the world.
"I really believe today that Costa Rica played the better soccer - in all aspects except one and unfortunately that one makes the greatest difference."
Sampson said the the Canadians "play defensive-minded, they play counterattack, they play long balls over the middle, they play very direct soccer.
"For today it was effective but I think in the long run, I don't think it is as effective."
Sampson may have been addressing his comments to the Costa Rican reporters present in order to soften the blow of the loss back home.
Canada was playing for the fifth game in a row without its top-flight strike force. Everton's Tomasz Radzinski and San Jose's Dwayne De Rosario are both are recovering from injury.
Sampson, who suffered only his second loss in 10 games at the Costa Rican helm, could now find himself facing the Americans in the quarter-finals.
He coached the U.S. to last place at the '98 World Cup.
In the first half against Costa Rica, the Canadians used their flanks and their height to chip away at the Central Americans. Both defender Paul Fenwick and midfielder Daniel Imhof had moments with their heads in their hands because of missed chances.
Gonzalez denied both with spectacular diving saves to palm the ball away. Fenwick was stopped after Jason deVos, on the receiving end of a free kick, flicked the ball to his teammate in the box in the 14th minute.
Then Imhof was denied in the 26th minute, after a Bent cross eventually found its way to him.
Lars Hirschfeld, playing his first game since suffering a hamstring injury March 19, was solid in the Canadian goal.
The Canada-Costa Rica game was the opener of a tripleheader at the 68,000-capacity Gillette Stadium, the showcase home of the New England Patriots.
The home-town New England Revolution were to meet the New York-New Jersey MetroStars in the second game with the U.S.-El Salvador Gold Cup clash the nightcap.
The upper bowl was deserted for Canada's game and unofficial attendance was almost 24,000.
But the lower bowl had a healthy number of Costa Rican fans dressed in brilliant red, making large chunks of the lower stands look like they had been daubed with nail polish.
The Costa Ricans were a festive group, brandishing flags and doing the wave. A small pocket of Canadians did what they could for the other side.
The game, played under sunny skies, was the 45th of Osieck's tenure as coach. His record is 20-16-9.
Note: Canada played a 4-4-1-1 with Stalteri behind lone striker Kevin McKenna. Costa Rica played 3-2-3-2.
"Underneath the fading sun,
The silent sum of a businessman
Has left us choking"
Half Day Closing - Portishead