Costa Rica's Douglas Lopez and Patrick Sequeira looks dejected after the match as Costa Rica are eliminated from the World Cup REUTERS/Molly Darlington
(Reuters) - Costa Rica's hopes of bidding a fond farewell to their golden generation and replicating their 2014 success suffered a harsh reality check on Thursday when they lost 4-2 to Germany to finish bottom of Group E and exit the World Cup.
The 2022 tournament was always likely to be the last dance for the likes of goalkeeper Keylor Navas, and midfielders Celso Borges and Bryan Ruiz, but there was little to indicate that they would go out in a blaze of glory.
The nation of just over five million people still fondly reminisce about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when, drawn with Italy and England, they were given no chance, but ended up topping the standings and sending the two heavyweights home.
Eight years later, the surprise 2014 quarter-finalists approached the final group clash still in control of their own fate as a win over Germany would have sent them through. A draw, had Spain beaten Japan, would also have been enough.
But Germany breached Costa Rica's five-man backline after 10 minutes thanks to a Serge Gnabry header, and although the Central Americans briefly led 2-1, they conceded three more goals to seal their fate.
Costa Rica were effective in front of goal, scoring from three of their six attempts, but they struggled to create much more and rarely had more than 30% possession.
The 7-0 thrashing by Spain in the opening game showed Costa Rica's defensive naivety, but the 1-0 win over Japan revealed real grit and determination, even if they were helped by a toothless Japanese attack.
Against Germany, Costa Rica were without striker Anthony Contreras, a key player in their qualifying campaign, for the majority of the game, with the 22-year-old only coming on in stoppage time after overcoming a minor injury.
With a starting lineup that had an average age the wrong side of 30, however, the time was fast approaching for a generational shift and on Thursday it duly arrived.