Paraguay muscle Costa Rica out of Group C opener

February 23 – Paraguay opened Group C with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in the Shell Energy Stadium in Houston.

Paraguay qualified for the W Gold Cup as one of the Conmebol guests by finishing fourth in the 2022 Copa America Feminina. They lost in the World Cup 2023 qualifying play-off’s to Panama but are a fast developing women’s team.

Costa Rica are ranked 43 in the world, seven places ahead of Paraguay and had the benefit of playing at the 2023 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand, though they lost all their group games.

With only the top two in the group guaranteed progression into the quarter finals, and women’s heavyweights Canada in their section, this was a potentially competition-defining match for both teams.

Costa Rica opened the strongest of the two teams with the best chances falling to Gloriana Villalobos.

Wthin  shot just drift wide of the Paraguay right post before hitting the bar. The ball rebounded to Maria Salas whose follow upshot was palmed away by Daysy Bareiro.

A 22nd minute  award of a penalty to Costa rica for handball from a Villalobos shot was overturned after a VAR review

As the half progressed Paraguay began to get a grip of midfield and work themselves into the game. Up front Lice Chamorro was finding space between Costa Rican defenders but not getting the supply

On 38’ Chamorro unleashed a shot from the right hand edge of the box that flew wide to the left as Paraguay found more control.

At half time Costa Rica were leading the shot count, 5-2, having had 61% of possession. But Paraguay had finished stronger.

From the restart Paraguay were almost ahead. Rebeca Fernández, on as a sub at the half, shot from inside the box forcing a reaction save from Daniela Solera with her legs.

On 51’ Paraguay were ahead. A free kick from the wide on the left dropped over the Costa Rica defence to an incoming Chamorro who finished first time from 3m.

Costa Rica has to re-compose themselves and fast. With Sheika Scott starting to look dangerous leading the frontline, it was Costa Rica’s turn to work themselves back into the game.

On 63’ a free kick from the right found the head of Raquel Rodriguez but flashed past Paraguay’s right post. Costa Rica rang the changes from the bench but couldn’t find the control of midfield they had earlier in the game with Paraguay’s physicality in the challenges frequently breaking the Costa Rica rhythm and unafraid to dish out elbow medicine.

On 85’ Costa Rica had their best chance of the half. A free kick won by Rodriguez just outside the box saw Alexandra Pinell’s curling shot just drift wide.

In added time F Goodey followed through with a challenge on Emily Flores and was lucky to get away with just a yellow card. The free kick was swung into the Paraguay box but lacked a killer finish. It was to be their last chance of the game.

Costa Rica now have to re-compose themselves for play-in qualifier El Salvador on Sunday, when Paraguay will face the more physical challenge of the Canadians.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1713324633labto1713324633ofdlr1713324633owedi1713324633sni@n1713324633osloh1713324633cin.l1713324633uap1713324633