Costa Rica’s winless drought extended to eight games, but they earned a spot in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-finals after a 0-0 draw with Canada in Toronto.
Playing in front of a home crowd for the only time in the tournament, Canada were unable to be inspired at BMO Field – as they finished bottom of Group B.
Marcus Haber had seemingly produced a decisive goal in the 68th minute, but the Canadian forward’s effort was ruled out for offside.
The ball was cleared off the line in the 81st minute, the Costa Rican defence somehow scrambling it to safety after goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado dropped what should have been a customary collect.
The Costa Ricans came into the fixture in the knowledge a draw was enough to see them progress, and it was job done for Paulo Wanchope – despite their last win in 90 minutes coming in October.
Canada dominated for periods of the first half as they hunted the all-important opener, noticeably taking control following a 20th-minute free-kick from Maxime Tissot.
Tissot’s probing set-piece evaded all-comers in the area, including Alvarado, and eventually clipped the outside of the far post.
One minute later, referee Hector Rodriguez was forced to turn down penalty appeals – with Jonathan Osorio’s flick inside the area appearing to catch Francisco Calvo’s arm, but there was no whistle.
Haber then had the chance of the half for the hosts, his close-range effort denied by Alvarado – and his follow-up from an acute angle was blocked by Costa Rica’s defence as Benito Floro’s men surged.
Costa Rica’s best chance of the half came just prior to the interval, with Deyver Vega cutting in from the right wing, and unleashing a left-foot strike that Canada goalkeeper Kenny Stamatopoulos managed to somehow commandeer beyond his post.
Earlier, David Ramirez threatened from range, but Wanchope’s men were largely futile in front of goal.
Neither side were too keen to throw too many numbers forward in the second half – understandable for Costa Rica, who were aware a draw would see them advance.
They also knew, however, that a goal would ease the pressure on them – something Johan Venegas came close to producing in the 62nd minute, only to be denied by Stamatopoulos at full stretch.
Shots from range were all Costa Rica were happy with, it seemed, as Ramirez tried his luck again from outside the 18-yard box – before Canada went up the other end and earned a free-kick via big man Haber.
Haber tapped home from a set-piece, but the sideline official correctly ruled he was in an offside position when the free-kick was taken – shattering the hopes of the local fans.
Costa Rica will play the runner-up in Group C – likely to be Mexico – in New Jersey on Sunday.