When the Selección Nacional (national team) plays in important international championships, the whole country practically becomes paralyzed. The streets in town are emptier than on a Good Friday. Everyone is either at the stadium or seated in front of a TV set at home or at a bar. When the team wins, the whole country explodes in merriment and everyone is in high spirits; workers produce more during the next few days, and domestic violence diminishes. If it loses, everyone is downhearted and you won't see much laughter or cheerful faces. Classification in September 2001 to participate in the 2002 World Cup at Japan-Korea was one of the happiest moments in Costa Rican history especially since it was obtained by defeating primarily the Mexican and United States national teams which have always been very strong contenders.
In June 2002, at South Korea, the national team won against China, drew with Turkey and lost to Brazil, the latter defeat eliminating them from advancing further in the World Cup. But rather than follow the Russian example of rioting on the streets of Moscow and burning cars after a loss, Costa Ricans in defeat showed themselves to be good losers and Costa Rica emerged again as the peaceful, proud and classy country for which it is well-known.
Today crowds in the stadiums in Costa Rica are more educated. Some 30 years ago it was dangerous to sit too low on the lower priced stadium bleachers (galería general) because you could be exposed to receive on your back a plastic bag full of urine. That's mainly because stadium doors for an important game have always been opened up to 6 hours before playing time and many spectators can't wait too long before going to the john.
I recall that at a game I attended between the national teams of Guatemala and Costa Rica, a dead skunk was grabbed by its tail by spectators and tossed all around the stadium. Today those things don't happen, but it's a still a good idea to pay a little more and buy the more expensive tickets to assure you of getting a numbered seat which you can occupy just a few minutes before game time. This way you won't have to wait hours to find room if you were to sit at the galería general. You'll also avoid getting caught in the midst of frequent fist fights which sometimes occur between rival team fans.