Costa Rica defeated Martinique, 6-1, in Group B play of the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. With the win, Costa Rica claims first place in Group B and will face Trinidad & Tobago in the first semifinal on Friday at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
A win in the semifinals will clinch a World Cup spot for Costa Rica and send the Ticas to their first World Cup. The top three teams from the tournament qualify for next year’s World Cup in Canada. The fourth-place team will face Ecuador in a two-leg playoff for a trip to Canada.
Costa Rica marched out a much different lineup as seven changes were made to the starting XI, including resting starters Raquel Rodriguez, Shirley Cruz, and Daphne Herrera. It took just six minutes for the Ticas to get on the board as Fabiola Sanchez headed home a Cristin Granados corner kick after making an unmarked run from the top of the box. Heavy rains made it difficult for either team to consistently possess the ball.
Costa Rica got its second in the 25th minute as Carolina Venegas received a pass inside the 18-yard box, turned a couple of defenders, and slotted the ball past the Martinique goalkeeper, Benedicte Hubbel. Wendy Acosta put Costa Rica up 3-0 in the 33rd minute when Katherine Alvarado played her a through ball at the top of the box. Martinique’s Hubbel got a hand on the shot, but couldn’t keep it out.
Under steady rain, the second half saw Martinique put together a few organized attacks and threaten with some opportunities. They finally broke through in the 62nd minute as a long free kick from the center circle was sent into the box and headed on by Prisca Carin past Costa Rican goalkeeper Yirliana Arroyo for the Caribbean side’s first goal of the tournament. Carin nearly got a second in the 76th minute as she held her run on a ball played over the top but her shot hit the post after beating Arroyo, who was off her line. That would be as close as Martinique would get as Penn State forward Raquel Rodriguez came on the in 79th minute and scored in the 82nd minute off of an Alvarado free kick, and then added another in the 83rd minute after beating Martinique’s offside trap. In stoppage time, Venegas scored her second of the night as she connected on a bicycle kick inside the six-yard box after a misclearance off of a Costa Rican free kick.
Costa Rica as a whole put together a business-like performance on the field. They did what they needed to do against Martinique and despite battling some rough conditions on the field and a flurry of fouls, the Ticas were able to produce some good play and build some confidence heading into the semifinal round on Friday. They possessed the ball, used both flanks, were efficient going for goal, and scored a couple of highlight-reel goals along the way. Venegas and Rodriguez were on form up top and Gloriana Villalobos continues to see her tournament stock rise after another good performance, playing with a maturity well beyond her 15 years.
It was a rough tournament for Martinique, as the team was overmatched but showed improvement after each match. Martinique scored its first goal of the tournament in the second half of the game, and created scoring chances. The experience will benefit them in the years ahead.