World Cup: Falconets Defy Downpour To Defeat France In Opening Game

In form, Sabastine Flourish finished off coolly in the 85th minute to hand Nigeria the one-nil victory over a stubborn French side at San Jose, Costa Rica on August 12, 2022. Credit: FIFA
In form Sabastine Flourish finished off coolly in the 85th minute to hand Nigeria the one-nil victory over a stubborn French side at San Jose, Costa Rica on August 12, 2022. Credit: FIFA


Nigeria’s Falconets defied the heavy rain in San Jose to beat the Little Blues of France in their opening game at the 2022 U-20 Women’s World Cup.

In form Sabastine Flourish finished off coolly in the 85th minute to hand Nigeria the one-nil victory over a stubborn French side at San Jose, Costa Rica.

Coach Chris Danjuma’s side began the game on a fine note and caused some panic for the Europeans amid the rains which poured harder on the pitch, causing poor visibility for the players and match officials. Centre referee Francia Gonzales was then forced to stop play in the 20th minute due to the weather conditions. The game was, however, restarted after one hour.

Less than ten minutes after the restart, the French side had to head off the ball from the goal as the Falconets continued to surge forward. While no side was able to score in the first half, the second half was an even stiffer competition.

READ ALSO: [U-20 Women’s W/Cup] Nigeria’s Falconets Target Glory In Costa Rica

Sabastine Flourish scored the only goal as the Falconets defeated France in their opening game of the 2022 U-20 FIFA World Cup in Costa Rica on August 12, 2022. Credit: FIFA
Sabastine Flourish scored the only goal as the Falconets defeated France in their opening game of the 2022 U-20 FIFA World Cup in Costa Rica on August 12, 2022. Credit: FIFA


Both teams defended and attacked with resoluteness in the quest for the opening goal. France were to benefit from a goalmouth scramble in the 80th minute. Substitute Jade Nassi’s goal after a corner kick from the European did not, however, count after it was overruled by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for a foul on the Nigerian goalkeeper Oyoyo Omini.

As the game flowed from end to end and both sides looking for a late goal, the 2014 runners-up took the lead with just five minutes to normal time. Flourish, who was the highest goalscorer in the African qualification series, finished off a defence-splitting pass from Mercy Idoko to send the ball past goalkeeper Marie-Morgane Sieber.

Nigeria were runners-up in 2010 and 2014. Photo: Twitter@FIFAWWC
Nigeria were runners-up in 2010 and 2014. Photo: [email protected]


With the win, a victory over Korea DPR in Nigeria’s second match on Sunday will guarantee the Africans a slot in the quarter-finals of the competition.

U-20 Women’s W/Cup: Nigeria’s Falconets Target Glory In Costa Rica

The Falconets have qualified for all editions of the U-20 World Cup. [email protected]_Falcons


The Falconets will start another quest for Nigeria’s first U-20 Women’s World Cup title in Costa Rica on Thursday. The competition started on Wednesday with Germany losing to Colombia in the first match of the tournament.

Drawn in a tricky Group C with Canada, Korea Republic, and France, Nigeria will battle with the Europeans in their first game at the youth competition.

The age-grade event, which was moved from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is the 10th edition of the championship. 

Pedigree and Road to Costa Rica

Nigeria have featured in all editions of the championship since its inception. Channels TV/Benjamin Oluwatoyin.


Having participated in all editions since its inception in 2002, Nigeria is not new to the competition. They emerged runners-up twice – 2010 and 2014 and have reached the quarter-finals on five occasions. A group stage ouster in 2002 and 2016 is the West Africans poorest showing at the 16-nation tournament.  

But in the Central American nation, the Falconets will fancy their chances of going all the way to winning the title. 

Nigeria’s flawless form en route to the competition further heightens hopes among fans that they will put up a good showing in Costa Rica. They won six of their seven matches (drawing only away to Cameroon) to book a final spot. 

They began their campaign against the Central African Republic (CAR) in the second round of qualifiers and shipped 11 goals past them.  Their next opponents were the Republic of Congo whom they dispatched 4-0 in the first leg (their opponents did not show up for the second leg in Nigeria).

After this, the youngsters defeated Cameroon 3-0 on aggregate in the fourth round of qualification before they mauled hapless Senegal 7-2 on aggregate in the last qualification game. In total, they scored 28 goals, conceding only twice. Flourish Sabastine contributed seven of them. 

READ ALSO: Falconets’ Coach Names World Cup Squad As Team Depart For Costa Rica

Nigeria’s best outing at the competition was in 2010 and 2014 when they finished second. [email protected]_Falcons


Despite the team’s ruthless display during qualification, Falconets’ coach Chris Danjuma says his girls won’t rest on their oars. 

“We took a long route to get here, having to play four different teams in the qualifying series. I can tell you that we are prepared to make Nigeria and Africa proud,” he told the NFF. 

“It is not about being here to make up the number; it is about being here to make an impact.”

Going to Costa Rica, Coach Danjuma called up 21 players, made up majorly of those who featured in the qualification series. 

He will be relying on team captain Oluwatosin Demehin; the free-scoring front three of Mercy Idoko, Flourish Sabastine, and Joy Jerry to do damage against their opponents.  Esther Onyenezide, Adoo Yina, and Deborah Abiodun are expected to pull the strings in the middle of the pack. 

A Tricky Group?

These players will need nothing short of their best to make it out of a group that many have described as tricky considering the calibre of teams in it. 

Korea DPR, perhaps the most successful of the lot, won the cadet championship in 2006 and 2016. The Asians, one of the powerhouses in women’s football, will be eager to make it three trophies at the level. 

Aside from the two-time winners,  Group C has the Little Blues of France. With eight appearances in the competition,  they are looking to better their second-place finish at the 2016 edition of the Women’s U-20 World Cup.

Their championship credentials will be put to the test when they go head-to-head with Nigeria at the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose.

Speaking about France’s Group C opponents, Coach Sonia Haziraj admits her side face a daunting task against some of the top teams. She’s also particularly wary of Nigeria’s athleticism going into the first game. 

“I’m extremely wary of Nigeria. I have massive respect for the African game and Nigeria have a number of players who possess real quality. The Nigerians always get out of their group at the youth tournaments. I’ve watched them and they’re a well-drilled, hard-working side. They have great pace and are very athletic, and we’ll have to be ready to match them in that respect,” she told

“As for Canada, they’re a solid side. When I look at the teams we faced in the Sud Ladies Cup, I can see parallels with the sides we’ll come up against in Costa Rica. USA, with their pace and direct attacking play, are similar to Nigeria, whilst the Netherlands are very much like the Canadians in that they’re really disciplined, athletic and afford you very little in the way of space.

“When it comes to the South Koreans, we haven’t got too much of an insight. What we do know is that, just like all Asian teams, they’re a very tough side, a strong unit, and cover a lot of ground.”

As for Canada, they were the hosts of the 2014 edition and will begin a tasking first-round battle with Korea DPR. Their best finish was at the maiden edition in 2002. Then, the competition was for U-19s and the North Americans with a team including the young Christine Sinclair bowed to the US in the final at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.

Since the tournament started, Canada have qualified eight out of ten times. 

While they did not make it to the last edition in 2018 and failed to qualify from their group in 2016, Canada’s head coach Cindy Tye says her team are no pushovers and are poised to make a statement this time. 

“We’re not underdogs here. The group feels that they’re in a very good space right now,” said Tye, who doubles as the coach of the Dalhousie University women’s team. “We’re very ambitious. We would like to podium. And we feel that we’re going to take some people by surprise as we go.”

Date And Time For Nigeria’s Matches At U-20 Women’s World Cup 2022

Below is a list of Nigeria’s matches at the U-20 Women’s World Cup as well as the date and time: 

11 August: France vs Nigeria. Time: 12 midnight (WAT)

14 August: Korea DPR vs Nigeria. Time: 21:00 (WAT)

17 August: Nigeria vs Canada. Time: 03:00 am (WAT)

Falconets’ Coach Names World Cup Squad As Team Depart For Costa Rica

The Falconets were runners-up in 2012. [email protected]_Falcons.


Falconets’ coach Chris Danjuma has unveiled the squad for the U-20 Women’s World Cup billed to start next week in Costa Rica. 

A statement from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) shows that the team is made up majorly of players who featured for the country in the competition’s qualification series.

Among them are captain Oluwatosin Demehin and 20 others. The team for the Costa Rica tournament includes three goalkeepers, six defenders; six midfielders, and six strikers.

The Falconets, who departed for Costa Rica on Thursday, defeated the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Senegal, winning six of seven matches (they only drew with Cameroon in Douala) to qualify for the competition in the Central America nation.

RELATED: Onyekwere Becomes First Nigerian Woman To Win Commonwealth Games Discus Gold

Nigeria, runners-up at the 2014 edition, are in Group C of the 16-nation tournament that begins on August 10 alongside France, Canada, and the Korea Republic.

Their first match is against the French ladies on Friday, August 12 after which they will face the Asians and then Canada.

Africa’s other flagbearers Ghana are up against Cup holders Japan, The Netherlands, and three-time champions United States of America in Group D.

Germany, who have also won the competition three times, including 2010 and 2014 when they beat Nigeria in the final, will play Colombia, New Zealand, and Mexico in Group B.

All group phase and quarter-final games will be played at the Alejandro Morera Soto, which is a hybrid of natural and synthetic grass, called stitched grass. The semi-final, final and third place matches will hold at the Estadio Nacional.


Goalkeepers: Nelly Ekeh, Monle Oyono, Peace Obidinma

Defenders: Oluwatosin Demehin, Omowunmi Oshobukola, Rofiat Imuran, Jumoke Alani, Chidinma Ogbuchi, Oluchi Ohaegbulem

Midfielders: Bashirat Amoo, Esther Onyenezide, Adoo Yina, Motunrayo Amoo, Chinyere Kalu, Deborah Abiodun

Forwards: Blessing Okpe, Joy Jerry, Mercy Idoko, Flourish Sabastine, Chioma Olise, Chiamaka Okwuchukwu


GROUP A: Costa Rica, Australia, Spain, Brazil

GROUP B: Germany, Colombia, New Zealand, Mexico

GROUP C: France, Nigeria, Canada, Korea Republic

GROUP D: Japan, The Netherlands, Ghana, USA

Canada And Costa Rica Qualify For 2023 Women’s World Cup

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 12, 2022 Spain’s midfielder Alexia Putellas warms up prior to the 2023 Women’s World Cup Group B qualification football match between Scotland and Spain at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)



Canada and Costa Rica qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup on Friday after winning group stage matches at the CONCACAF W tournament.

Julia Grosso scored in the 64th minute to give Canada, the reigning Olympic champion, a 1-0 victory over Panama while Cristin Granados netted two first-half goals in Costa Rica’s 4-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago.

Both Costa Rica and Canada improved to 2-0 in their group to clinch berths in Thursday’s semi-finals of the eight-team North American regional tournament and secure trips to Australia and New Zealand for next year’s global women’s football showdown.

Two-time defending Women’s World Cup champion United States has already secured a chance to claim a third straight trophy by reaching the CONCACAF semi-finals.

Either Haiti or Jamaica will take the last available Women’s World Cup berth depending on the outcome of their Monday group-stage match.

Third-place teams from each group advance to next February’s global playoff for three Women’s World Cup spots.

The CONCACAF event serves as the regional qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics as well. The CONCACAF champions will secure a Paris 2024 Olympic berth. The runner-up and third-place teams will meet in a playoff next year to determine another spot in that tournament.

Granados scored in the 18th and 45th minutes for Costa Rica while Trinidad and Tobago’s Lauryn Hutchinson netted an own goal in the 33rd and Katherine Alvarado added a final goal for Las Ticas in the 48th.

Falconets Handed Tricky Group In U-20 Women’s World Cup

The Falconets have qualified for all editions of the U-20 World Cup. [email protected]_Falcons


The Falconets will face South Korea, Canada, and France in the U-20 Women’s World Cup after the draw was conducted at the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica in San José on Thursday night. 

Nigeria were seeded in Pot 3 along with the US, Spain, and Mexico for the competition billed for August 10 to 28.

The top teams were seeded into pots based on their performances in the last five editions of the World Cup.

Africa’s other representatives, the Black Princesses of Ghana, are in Group D, alongside defending champions, Japan, the US, and the Netherlands.

Hosts Costa Rica, Australia, Spain, and Brazil are in Group A while Group B has Germany, Colombia, New Zealand, and Mexico.

The best two teams from each group will qualify for the knockout stage. Every group game and quarter-final fixtures will be played at the Alejandro Morera Soto while the semi-final, final, and third-place matches will hold at the Estadio Nacional.

READ ALSO: Falconets Silence Senegal, Qualify For U-20 World Cup

Since the competition began, the Falconets have featured in all editions, their best outings second-place finishes in 2010 and 2014.

Coach Christopher Danjuma’s side qualified for the competition after a 7-1 aggregate win over the Young Lionesses of Teranga in the final round of qualification.

This year’s edition, which was rescheduled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, was supposed to hold in 2020. Nigeria crashed out of the last edition in 2018 at the quarter-final following defeat to Spain.

U-20 Women’s World Cup Groups And Teams

Below is a list of the teams and their groups for the age-grade competition: 

Group A: Costa Rica, Australia, Spain Brazil

Group B: Germany, Colombia, New Zealand, Mexico

Group C: France, Nigeria, Canada, Korea Republic

Group D: Japan, Netherlands, Ghana, USA

Costa Rica Legalises Same-Sex Marriage



Costa Rica legalised same-sex marriage on Tuesday, becoming the first Central American country to do so and sparking an emotional response from rights campaigners as the first weddings were held overnight.

Celebrations were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but a special program about LGBT rights was broadcast on public television and online after a court ruling came into force at midnight.

“This change will bring about a significant social and cultural transformation, allowing thousands of people to marry,” said President Carlos Alvarado in the program.

Costa Rica is the eighth country in the Americas to recognise same-sex marriage — a group that includes Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina, as well as Canada and the US.

The Supreme Court in August 2018 ruled that a ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional and gave parliament 18 months to amend the laws. It failed to do that, so the provision was automatically annulled.

“Costa Rica is celebrating today: marriage equality has become a reality in the country — the first one in Central America,” tweeted the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

“We rejoice with you: congratulations to all those who worked so hard to make it happen!”

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN’s Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, called the change “an extraordinary moment of celebration” in a tweet posted on Monday.

– Strong Catholic tradition –

He expressed “gratitude to the work of so many activists, and of quiet reflection of the lives of those who lived without seeing this moment”.

Moments after midnight, Dunia Araya and Alexandra Quiros tied the knot in a town northwest of the capital, San Jose. The young women, both dressed in white, took their vows before a notary wearing a face mask as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Costa Rica has a strong Catholic tradition and has also seen a proliferation of evangelical churches in recent decades. Many followers of those denominations are opposed to gay marriage.

Alvarado, a centrist, was elected to the presidency in April 2018 by comfortably seeing off a challenge from evangelical preacher Fabricio Alvarado, who campaigned against same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court decision complied with an opinion given by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, declaring that homosexual couples have the same rights to marry as heterosexual ones.


6.2-Magnitude Earthquake Hits Costa Rica’s Border


A 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Panama-Costa Rica border around midnight on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, revising earlier warnings of “significant damage”, as the tremor cut power supplies near the epicentre.

The quake struck at a depth of 26 kilometres (16 miles), about two kilometres from the nearest town of Progreso in Panama, USGS said, updating a previous alert that estimated the depth at 10 kilometres.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, and USGS said “the impact should be relatively localized”, reversing an earlier advisory that “past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response.”

“Estimated economic losses are less than 1 per cent of GDP of Panama,” the website said.

READ ALSO: Trump Appoints Stephanie Grisham As New White House Press Secretary

According to the National Seismological Network (RSN) in Costa Rica, the quake struck at 0523 GMT Wednesday (11.23 pm Tuesday) with its epicentre located 11 kilometres east of the Panamanian border town of Puerto Armuelles.

The tremor was felt in Costa Rica’s capital San Jose and in many parts of the Central American country, according to initial reports, but the national tsunami warning system said there was no risk of a tsunami.

Villagers in the south of Costa Rica fled their homes, fearing aftershocks. Two houses in the region were damaged by the quake, said Alexander Solis, president of the country’s National Emergency Commission.

Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado said there were power cuts in several communities in the southwest of the country, near the epicentre.

In November 2017 a 6.5-magnitude quake on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica caused buildings to sway in San Jose and contributed to the deaths of two people who had heart attacks.

Further north, two months earlier a 7.1-magnitude earthquake killed more than 300 people in Mexico.


UPDATED: Brazil Beat Costa Rica 2-0, Edge Towards World Cup Last 16

Brazil’s forward Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Brazil and Costa Rica at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 22, 2018. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP


Philippe Coutinho and Neymar broke down dogged Costa Rica in injury time on Friday, sealing a 2-0 win for Brazil that propels the five-time champions towards the World Cup last 16.

The Central Americans looked likely to hold on for a hard-earned draw, particularly after Neymar had a penalty award chalked off by referee Bjorn Kuipers after he consulted the Video Assistant Referee.

But Coutinho and Neymar finally broke through, scoring in the 91st and 97th minutes to put Tite’s side on the brink of the knockout stages.

At the final whistle, Neymar sat down on the grass and wept, with the emotion of victory hitting home after the tense Group E contest at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Neymar started despite limping out of training on Tuesday with a hurt ankle, which the Brazilian FA said was sustained as a result of snapping Swiss defenders.

After a ponderous start, Brazil enjoyed a gradual crescendo during the first period but their dominance in possession was not reflected in chances created.

Neymar faced the most devoted of markers in Costa Rica’s Cristian Gamboa, the Brazilian spending most of the half hopping over scything tackles or dodging past a barging shoulder.

It was a compelling battle. One sumptuous Neymar flick sent the ball flying over Gamboa’s head and later he made an excellent run onto Coutinho’s pass, only to squander the chance with a heavy touch.

Marcelo, Coutinho and Neymar, however, hardly make for the most conscientious combination out wide and when Johan Venegas ran clear down the right, his pullback should have been converted by Celso Borges, who skewed past the post.

Brazil might have had a penalty when Oscar Duarte blocked Paulinho at a corner and Costa Rica rode their luck again after the break, as Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho all went close.

Jesus’s header crashed against the crossbar and after some excellent work by Paulinho, Coutinho’s follow-up hit the ever-present Gamboa on the line.

Neymar fired over from Paulinho’s cutback and Coutinho shot straight at Keylor Navas after, again, Paulinho had teed it up.

With 20 minutes left, Gamboa made his first mistake and Neymar should have capitalised. A sloppy touch allowed the striker to cut inside from the left but his bending finish curved around the outside of the post.

There was more drama to come. With just over 10 minutes left, Neymar’s turn prompted Giancarlo Gonzalez to lose his footing and put his arm across the Brazilian’s chest.

Neymar arched back as if losing his balance before falling to the ground. Kuipers pointed to the spot but after reviewing the video replay, reversed his decision.

Frustration brewed but Costa Rica’s resistance was finally ended in the 91st minute.

Marcelo’s deep cross was kept alive by Roberto Firmino and a loose touch by Jesus dribbled perfectly into Coutinho’s path. Six yards out, he sidefooted home.

Costa Rica conceded again right at the death. Substitute Douglas Costa squared for Neymar to finally find the net.


Neymar Resumes Training Ahead Of Costa Rica Game

Brazil’s coach Tite (L) and Brazil’s forward Neymar are seen during a training session of Brazil national football team at Yug Sport Stadium, in Sochi, on June 19, 2018, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. Nelson Almeida / AFP


Neymar was back in training for Brazil on Wednesday ahead of their World Cup clash with Costa Rica, 24 hours after limping out of a session with an ankle problem.

“Brazil team training under way and Neymar participating normally,” tweeted the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).

The session was closed to the media, but the CBF also posted a short video on their Twitter account showing Neymar in action at the team’s Sochi base.

On Tuesday, the world‘s most expensive player hobbled out of a session in full view of the cameras, complaining of a problem with his right ankle.

The Brazil camp said he was feeling the effects of a knock suffered in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Switzerland in their opening Group E outing.

They insisted the problem was not related to the fractured right foot that required surgery and saw Neymar miss the last three months of the club season for Paris Saint-Germain.

Brazil were due to fly to Saint Petersburg on Wednesday evening ahead of Friday’s game against Costa Rica there.


Costa Rican Striker, Urena To Have Surgery For Facial Fractures

Marco Urena #21 of Los Angeles FC is chased by Osvaldo Alonso #6 of Seattle Sounders during the first half of the inaugural home game at Banc of California Stadium on April 29, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP


Costa Rican striker, Marco Urena will have surgery to repair facial fractures and is expected to be out at least a month, Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC said Tuesday.

The news will be a concern for Costa Rica, coming a month and a half before the start of the World Cup in Russia.

Urena, who has been a key piece in LAFC’s strong start to their inaugural MLS season, was injured in a collision in the first half of the club’s 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday — LAFC’s first match in their new Banc of California Stadium.

LAFC said Urena would undergo surgery on Friday and be re-evaluated in four weeks, with the expected recovery time four to six weeks.

Costa Rica open their World Cup campaign in Russia on June 17 against Serbia and will also face Brazil and Switzerland in Group E.


Divided Over Gay Rights, Costa Rica Chooses New President

Voters check an electoral roll at a polling station in San Jose on April 1, 2018 during Costa Rica’s run-off election. Polling stations across Costa Rica opened early Sunday for a presidential election that has split the country between an ultra-conservative evangelical preacher who slams gay rights and a former minister from the center-left ruling party.
Ezequiel BECERRA / AFP


Polling stations across Costa Rica opened early Sunday for a presidential election that has split the country between an ultra-conservative evangelical preacher who slams gay rights and a former minister from the center-left ruling party.

The result will decide who rules the small Central American nation of five million people for the next four years.

Pre-vote surveys suggest a neck-and-neck race between Fabricio Alvarado, a right-wing 43-year-old preacher, journalist and singer, and Carlos Alvarado (no relation), a 38-year-old former journalist who was a labor minister in the outgoing government.

Fabricio Alvarado surged from nowhere in the first round of the election held in February, triumphing over a field of 13 candidates by fiercely criticizing gay marriage.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in January urged the recognition of same-sex marriages, setting off a polarizing debate in Costa Rica. The country is both socially conservative and proud of its progressive human rights record.

– A ‘photo finish’? –

Carlos Alvarado, in contrast, ran on a broad campaign to tackle the priorities identified by his Citizens’ Action Party, which has been in power since 2014 under outgoing President Luis Guillermo Solis.

Those issues include reining in a steadily climbing deficit, boosting education and upholding ecological standards.

In the first round, the preacher won 25 percent of the ballots against 22 percent for the former labor minister — both well short of the 40 percent required to avoid a run-off.

The last pre-election survey in March suggested a very tight election: Fabricio Alvarado was credited with 43 percent support against 42 percent for Carlos Alvarado.

“Neither of the two candidates motivates me sufficiently to give my support,” the head of the small Liberal Progressive Party, Eli Feinzaig, wrote on his social media accounts.

“But, ultimately, one of them has done enough to earn my clear and unequivocal repudiation,” he said, declaring he would vote for Carlos Alvarado.

Winning over undecided or ambivalent voters was key for the candidates.

“The population still isn’t clear on what development model it wants,” a political analyst from the Latin American Social Sciences Institute, Gustavo Araya, told AFP.

“This is a photo finish. It isn’t statistically clear who will be the victor between these opposing platforms,” he said.

Some 3.3 million voters were being called to decide the election.

Polling was taking place on Easter Sunday, at the end of a four-day holiday weekend. Roads back to the capital San Jose were choked as many voters drove back home to cast their ballots.

Others had yet to make up their minds.

“Voting is so difficult. The two who are left aren’t to my taste. I don’t know if I’m going to vote. Truly, I’m undecided,” said Ligia Vargas, a street vendor who sells fruits and juice in the main city park.

Winds Seen As Factor In Costa Rica Plane Crash That Killed 12

The tail of the burned fuselage of a small plane that crashed is seen in Guanacaste, Corozalito, Costa Rica on December 31, 2017. Ezequiel BECERRA / AFP

Strong winds were seen as a factor in the crash of a small plane in Costa Rica that killed all 10 US passengers on board and two local crew members, according to officials and witnesses.

The accident, which occurred Sunday in the country’s northwestern Guanacaste region popular with tourists seeking pristine tropical beaches, killed all on board the small Cessna 208 Caravan owned and operated by domestic airline Nature Air.

The plane burst into flames on impact, according to rescue officials and locals.

Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation agency said the pilots had tried to land at Punta Islita earlier Sunday to get the passengers but aborted because of “the gusts of wind.”

The aircraft was up-to-date with its certifications and had been inspected a month earlier, the agency said.

“There had been a lot wind, really strong,” one resident in the area told AFP on Monday.

She said when she and other locals arrived at the crash site, up a steep hillside, “we couldn’t see, absolutely everything was black.”

She added: “The front part of the plane was all on fire, and the tail part was the only bit intact.”

Police and fire crews arrived within 25 minutes of the crash, which happened shortly after midday (1800 GMT), she said.

Another resident, Efrain Rojas, told the newspaper La Nacion that the plane was “too low” after take-off.

“It did a turn to the left. For us, it looked like some sort of problem, and it was trying to get back to the runway. With the turn it did, it had one wing up vertical, and the other hit the trees,” he said.

“When we arrived, it was all in flames…. The plane, when it came down, apparently exploded, caught fire,” he said.

‘All on fire’ 

The plane came down minutes after taking off from a small sealed airstrip in Punta Islita, a beachside town in Guanacaste, where the Americans had boarded.

“We can confirm the death of ten US citizens in an airplane crash in Costa Rica on December 31, 2017,” a US State Department official said by email on Monday.

“We express our condolences to all those affected by this tragedy,” the official said, adding that consular assistance was being extended.

An American family of five from the town of Scarsdale, a suburb of New York City, was wiped out in the crash, US media reported.

Bruce and Irene Steinberg and their three sons William, Zachary and Matthew were all killed while on a family vacation.

The other US victims were named as Thibault Astruc, Amanda Geissler, Charles Palmer, Leslie Weiss and Sherry Wuu.

The Costa Rican pilot was Juan Manuel Retana, 52. He was the cousin of former Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla, who spoke of their ties on Twitter. His co-pilot was Emma Ramos, also Costa Rican.

Guanacaste is a popular vacation destination, especially this time of year, when US and European tourists arrive in bigger numbers for an end-of-year respite from the northern hemisphere’s winter.