Colombia 1-0 Costa Rica: Ramos goal beats ten man Costa Rica

July 3, 2011

The starting line-ups

Colombia squeezed past Costa Rica in a poor game.

Hernan Dario Gomez surprisingly left out Cristian Zapata, sticking with the partnership of Luis Parea and Mario Yepes at the back. Hugo Rodallega was also on the bench.

Costa Rica are participating in this tournament with an Olympic squad, so the majority of players are under 23, and the XI was unrecognisable from the side which contested the Gold Cup.

The match was disappointing – played at a very slow pace, with Colombia dominating possession but not creating many chances. There were only two real points of interest – first, Costa Rica’s formation, and second, how Colombia immediately readjusted after Randall Brenes, the Costa Rica forward, was sent off in the first half.

Costa Rica formation

Costa Rica’s formation was very odd, and impossible to categorise into a set formation in numerical terms. They’d been expected to line up in a 3-5-2 formation – and that is probably the closest you can come to describing it easily, but there were significant differences from how you would expect a 3-5-2 to line up.

For a start, Diego Madrigal played very high up the pitch, as a left-winger rather than a left wing-back – whilst on the other side, Jose Salvatierra played much deeper, between the lines of midfield and defence.

To compensate for Madrigal’s advanced positioning, the left-sided central midfield Hugo Leal played very deep, and looked to cover that side. But there was further confusion because he frequently seemed to swap positions with the left-sided centre-back, Francisco Calvo, who turned up all over the pitch in the first half. The result was a strange, disjointed system that seemed to feature too many players in deep positions, and the confusion in the centre-left channel may have contributed to Ramos’ goal, which started with a run from that zone.


The line-ups after Costa Rica went down to ten men

Gomez’s starting system was a simple 4-5-1 / 4-3-3. The two wide players started relatively deep, which seemed overcautious considering Costa Rica were happy to let Colombia have the ball, and also because moving them forward and looking to stretch the three-man Costa Rican defence would surely have caused more problems.

The one area of interest was how deep Gustavo Bolivar played – he dropped into the back at times and allowed the two full-backs to motor on. Pablo Armero is the most naturally attacking of the two and had more space to exploit, but Juan Zuniga was probably more of a threat down the right.

When Brenes was sent off on 27 minutes, Gomez waited just five minutes to change his system and push men forward. he removed Abel Aguilar, who had been playing as the passing midfielder, and brought on Rodallega. This meant Fredy Guarin playing a little deeper, and Colombia moving to a 4-2-3-1 system, with the forward four players (with the slight exception of Falcao) allowed to switch around at will. The goal came partly because Colombia were overloading the Costa Rican defence, although it was through the simple addition of another attacker, rather than a more subtle tactical switch.


Not much to get excited about here – Colombia are the first side to pick up a win in the 2011 Copa, but they didn’t play particularly well and would have been in for more of a game had Costa Rica not gone down to ten so quickly.

The Colombian side seems to lack creativity to turn possession into chances. Guarin is the most attack-minded midfielder, but his first though is always to shoot (he must have had six or seven long-range attempts here) rather than thread a pass through the defence. There also needs to be a consideration of the roles of the wide players – Falcao thrives on crosses, but had little to work with here.

For Costa Rica this tournament is purely a learning experience. They’ll be reasonably proud of their efforts in keeping Colombia down to one goal, and caused some problems on the break.

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