There have only been two meetings between Cymru and Costa Rica, and they will be forever remembered as memorials to the late, great Gary Speed.

It was during an international friendly against Costa Rica in May 1990 that Speed made his senior debut for his country when he entered the field as a 75th minute substitute in the 1-0 victory. Dean Saunders scored the only goal of the game, but the match will be remembered in history as the fixture that started Speed’s impressive international career with the first of his 85 appearances for his country.

Over the course of the next two decades, Speed would become a pivotal midfielder for Cymru. One of the most-talented players of his generation, Speed would become a title-winner with Leeds United the following summer, and will be forever regarded as one of the all-time greats of the Premier League era. With versatility to his game, Speed could adapt to playing in variety of roles as and when required, while his infectious and popular nature brought an incredible and unprecedented outpouring of tributes from the football world following his untimely death in November 2011 at the age of just 42.

Despite his impressive playing career for club and country, Speed’s brief period as Cymru manager is revered by the Red Wall to this day. As the person credited with changing the culture within the national team after succeeding John Toshack in 2010, Speed’s legacy is in the success that the country has celebrated on the international stage over the course of the last decade. The tears of grief have turned to tears of celebration, and the recognition of his work during his 11-month tenure is testament to the direction and purpose to which he instigated significant change during this period of transition.

The second meeting between Cymru and Costa Rica would again take place in Cardiff, three months after Speed’s death in February 2012. His assistant Osian Roberts took charge of the side as Speed’s close friend and successor Chris Coleman watched on. The 1-0 defeat was an irrelevant statistic on a night that that celebrated not only Speed’s career as a player and a manager, but his life as a loving father, husband and son. It was a night that brought the Welsh football public together in a show of unity that Speed himself would have been proud of.

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