Kick off: 19:45 Wednesday, 29 Feb 2012
Location: Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff, Wales.
Fixture Type: International Friendly Match
Maybe the weight of expectation was too much for a Wales side who so desperately wanted to provide a fitting tribute to their late manager, Gary Speed.
This memorial match following Speed’s sad death in November produced a 23,000 plus crowd who wanted to pay their own respects, but an early goal from Joel Campbell was enough to give Costa Rica victory.
This was never going to be just another football match. The Cardiff City’s stadium crowd said their own goodbye to Wales most capped outfield player and a man who had given such hope and promise in his fledgling months as national manager.
The build-up to this memorial international saw contributions from the Super Furry Animals, |Mike Peters of the Farm, the Risca Male Voice Choir, Only Men Allowed and Bryn Terfel. A minutes applause was full of emotion, as was seeing Speed’s young sons Ed and Tommy lead out the two teams with injured captain Aaron Ramsey and skipper for the night, Craig Bellamy.
It was hard to concentrate on the match, overseen by Speed’s coach Osian Roberts from the dug-out, and Wales started the game in a near-testimonial atmosphere.
That seemed to account for the way Costa Rica glided into the lead after just seven minutes, their crisp passing opening up the Wales defence for Campbell to clinically shot past Lewis Price from 12 yards.
Wales were without the invention and skill of Ramsey and Gareth Bale, while Price was in goal due to injuries to Wayne Hennessey and Boaz Myhill.
The visitors looked a more than decent side and had plenty of possession and Campbell could have scored again when he broke away on the left to test Price with an angled drive.
It took a very long time for Wales to get into the game, but no doubt spurred on by the booming chant of “Speedo, Speedo” from the fans, they started to put Costa Rica under pressure.
Before the break Joe Allen just failed to get on the end of a Chris Gunter cross, while Steve Morison saw a header crash down onto the line from the crossbar, and Ashley Williams fired over from ten yards.
At the break a host of Speed’s former international team-mates were introduced to the crowd, along with Wales’ world boxing champion Nathan Cleverly.
The second period started with Bellamy flashing a close range drive over the bar as Wales fought for an equaliser.
Keylor Navas saved well from Hal Robson-Kanu, with Jack Collison taking over from Allen just after the hour mark. Sam Vokes then took over from Morison soon after.
Danny Gabbidon and Joe Ledley were soon to replace Ashley Williams and David Vaughan, while Robert Earnshaw and Sam Ricketts came on for Bellamy and Adam Matthews. But Wales still struggling to really test the Costa Ricans.
In fact, Costa Rica almost grabbed a second after 78 minutes when Kenny Cunningham cut through to crack a shot against Price’s left-hand post. Earnshaw even had an effort ruled out for offside after he tapped home from a yard out after Ledley’s free-kick had hit the woodwork.