Pulled out as a precaution with a leg injury, the Barcelona forward's absence came as a big letdown to a majority of the crowd at the 35,000-seater stadium, many of whom had shelled out hundreds of dollars just to see Messi play.
The understrength visitors dominated most of the possession but were unable to break down the home side, who regarded the draw against a side sitting 49 places above than them in FIFA's rankings as a moral victory.
Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas made several stunning saves to back up the sterling work of industrious midfielder Cristian Bolanos as both sides failed to make the most of any scoring opportunities that fell their way.
The friendly was only the second match played at Costa Rica's new national stadium, built as an estimated $100 million gift from China, whose national team drew 2-2 with the 'Ticos' when the arena was opened on Saturday.
"Today probably showed how much they miss Messi when he is not playing," Costa Rica's Argentine coach Ricardo La Volpe told reporters.
"If they're going to depend on one player so much to drive the team forward then I don't think they're going down the right road."
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