GENOA, Italy -- Costa Rica defeated Sweden 2-1 Wednesday night to become the first Central American country ever to reach the second round of the World Cup.
Substitute Hernan Medford scored the winning goal on a solo effort with two minutes left, leaving Costa Rica runner-up in Group C and assured a berth in the 16-team second round.
'It was an historical match for Costa Rica and I'm so happy for the players and the country,' said Velibor Milutinovic, Costa Rica's Yugoslavian coach. 'The important thing was that we really believed we could win.'
Costa Rica, a big longshot before the tournament began, beat Scotland 1-0 and lost to Brazil 1-0 in its other two games to finish with four points. Costa Rica will next face Czechoslovakia in Bari.
Brazil finished first in Group C with six points, Scotland was third with two and Sweden, losing all three games 2-1, was last with no points.
Sweden opened the scoring in the 31st minute when Johnny Ekstrom tapped in a rebound following a blistering free kick from Stefan Schwarz. Costa Rica evened the score in the 75th minute. Captain Roger Flores met a free kick from Juan Cayasso with a perfect header to beat goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli.
Costa Rica's three goals in the group came from a mere seven shots -- the lowest number of shots on goal by any of the 24 teams.
'My players knew exactly what they had to do and they did it,' said Milutinovic, who coached Mexico to the quarterfinals in 1986 and took over Costa Rica eight weeks before the World Cup. 'In the second half we made a great effort and managed to put Sweden under pressure.'
Sweden has not won a World Cup game since 1974. A draw with Brazil in 1978 has been followed by five consecutive losses.
'We came here to qualify for the second round and this is a great failure for us,' Sweden Coach Olle Nordin said. 'We moved so well in the first half, but stopped running completely in the second.'