It was a sea of red.
At noon, on Friday, thousands of fans lined the streets with flags, horns and whistles to celebrate the victory of our beloved team which stunned Italy to qualify for the second round of the World Cup.
And as I sat down to pen this piece, I realised that exactly 24 years to the day, our team had scripted history by booking a place in the Round of 16 of Italia 1990. June 20 is a lucky day for Costa Rica.
When Costa Rica surprised Uruguay 3-1 in their first group stage game last week, the entire country celebrated. It was our way of telling the world that a small nation (129th in terms of area) is capable of defending its honour, even against a great footballing country that has been crowned world champions twice.
People — young and old — thronged the streets, and every nook and corner of the country. Even our President, Luis Guillermo Solis, joined the party in one of the busiest parts of San José, the Fuente de la Hispanidad, by conveying a heartwarming message to our team.
Costa Rica is a sport-loving country. Every Sunday, we watch our favourite teams play football. And the fans never miss a single game. Costa Rica have proved to the world that it can be a force to reckon with in football.
Fans have always been known to support their players who, in this World Cup, were placed in this so-called 'Group of Death'. But if you ask me honestly, I never thought we would qualify, let alone top the group.
Captain Bryan Ruiz, goalkeeper Keylor Navas, and others like Joel Campbell and Randall Brenes are some of our standout performers. We never expected our team to beat the mighty Italians, but deep inside we never lost hope.
Our team put up an excellent show in Recife. Credit must also go to the astute manager, Colombia's Jorge Luis Pinto. Did you notice the manner in which overcame Italy? It was a game for the ages, but our boys kept their cool and treated it like a routine outing.
You must also remember that prior to the tournament, we lost leading striker Alvaro Saborio to injury. Midfielder Bryan Oviedo was also ruled out. The whole country was disappointed to miss the services of the hugely popular Saborio. According to experts, with Saborio as the focal point of our attack in qualifying, our team was, at times, too direct and somewhat predictable. However, the forward pairing of Ruiz and Campbell, ably supported by Yeltsin Tejeda, has turned out to be a super trio.
Campbell was the star of the win over Uruguay but, against Italy, it was Ruiz who provided the main threat. Not only did he score the winning goal with a firm header, but he also constantly challenged the Italian defence with his smart movement.
Back in 1990, the 'Los Ticos' had reached the second round with wins over Scotland and Sweden but their wins here have come against two top-10 ranked opponents. We are not done yet. We have shown the world that small countries can have great results. Let's celebrate, Pura Vida!
-Costa Rica at the World Cup-
1930-1986 Did Not Qualify
1990 Round of 16
1994-1998 Did Not Qualify
2002 Group Stage
2006 Group Stage
2010 Did Not Qualify
-Did You Know?-
* Nine members of the Costa Rica squad play in their domestic league
* Eleven are based in Europe, with captain Bryan Ruiz back at Fulham after a loan spell with Dutch side PSV Eindhoven
* The remaining three play in the United States (Major League Soccer)