The Saprissa – “It’s An Inferno”
The Saprissa has also been home to the Costa Rica national team for six FIFA World Cup™ preliminary competitions. It was first used for qualifying matches for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany and subsequently hosted qualifiers for the 1978 World Cup™ in Argentina, the 1982 World Cup in Spain, the 1998 World Cup in France, the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan and recently the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It is a venue that is feared by opposing sides and never a very pleasant experience for them. “It’s an inferno” was how US goalkeeper Brad Friedel chose to describe the highly charged atmosphere he encountered at the “monster’s cave” during his side’s 2-1 defeat in the first qualifying round for the 1998 World Cup in France. Following his country’s 3-2 loss to Costa Rica in the final qualifying round for that tournament in 1997, former US striker Eric Wynalda said that the pressure from the fans is very intense “because the stands housing the ordinary people are right on the edge of the pitch”.
However, this heady atmosphere has also led to problems for the Costa Rica national side – in 2005 disturbances were caused by fans following Costa Rica’s 2-1 defeat to Mexico in a qualifier for the World Cup in Germany. This behaviour resulted in Costa Rica’s next match, a 2-1 victory over Panama, being played behind closed doors.
The Costa Rica national side have played 40 international “A” matches at the Saprissa stadium and have a record of 25 wins, ten draws and only five defeats. The Costa Ricans also went 18 matches without defeat (12 wins and six draws) after losing 3-0 to Guatemala in 1980.