(AFP) – CONCACAF has ramped up security for Friday’s 2014 World Cup qualifier between Costa Rica and the United States, with Ticos fans still irked by the “Snow Bowl” won by the US in Denver in March.
Guatemalan Mario Monterrosa, the CONCACAF designated official for the contest, said the history between the teams had prompted the football’s regional governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean to label the match “high risk”.
More than 800 police will be on security duty at Estadio Nacional, with a command post set up at the venue and other precautions taken such as ensuring a maximum number of entrances and exits.
There’s plenty at stake in the match due to kick off at 8pm local time (0200 Saturday GMT), with the United States holding a two-point lead over Costa Rica atop the six-nation CONCACAF qualifying table. The top three countries advance directly to the World Cup finals in Brazil, while the fourth-place team will battle New Zealand for a berth.
The United States have never won a qualifier in Costa Rica, and the locals especially want to keep it that way after the Americans’ 1-0 triumph in Denver, a match played in a blizzard that Costa Rica argued bitterly should be stopped.
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said he realized many in Costa Rica remained angry about that match, but said it was unfair to take it out on his team.
“That was not our fault,” the German said this week as the extent of Costa Rican feeling on the subject became clear. “I didn’t call God to give us some snow.”
Nevertheless, the Americans have endured a rough welcome in San Jose. Rather than being fast-tracked through immigration and customs they received no special treatment upon arriving at the airport, where jeering fans pelted their bus with a few eggs.
Further efforts to unsettle the vistors are being orchestrated via social media, with one Facebook group urging supporters to “serenade” the US players at their hotel in the time-honored method to prevent them from sleeping or to clog the streets of San Jose to delay their arrival at the match.
Whether the usual police escort to the stadium materializes remains to be seen. US media travelling with the team reported that the three potential training sites suggested by the Costa Rican football federation declined to host them, and that game balls requested for training sessions were never delivered.
At least the Americans won’t have to go into the lion’s den of Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, Costa Rica having abandoned its bid to hold the match at the antiquated venue — where the steep stands offer visiting players an intimidating vista of hostile fans.
While some irate supporters were suggesting demonstrations at the match itself, Klinsmann insisted that come Friday, it would be all about football.
“It would be a tough game no matter what,” he said. “I don’t think the players down on the field will think about the snow game in March. It’s going to be a totally different situation and environment and we expect a really difficult challenge.”