World Cup: Costa Rica hoping to advance

Updated: 25 February 2007 10:40 IST

Costa Rica, Central America's lone World Cup qualifier, drew the unenviable task of playing the opening match of the tournament against host Germany.

World Cup: Costa Rica hoping to advance

San Jose:

Costa Rica, Central America's lone World Cup qualifier, drew the unenviable task of playing the opening match of the tournament against host Germany. Despite the cruel draw, the ''Ticos'' are still hopeful of a place in the second round. Besides Germany, Poland and Ecuador are also in Group A. Costa Rica will be playing in the World Cup for the third time, and Alexandre Guimaraes will again be a part of the action. Guimaraes, who was born in Brazil but is a nationalized Costa Rican, played for his adopted country during its first trip to the World Cup in 1990. Four years ago, he was the coach. Still coaching the team, Guimaraes is hoping to catch his rivals off-guard with a crop of youngsters who will join nine veterans from the last tournament, when the Costa Ricans failed to advance because of goal difference. The returning players include Paulo Wanchope and defender Ronald Gomez - goalscorers in South Korea and Japan four years ago - and Gilberto Martinez. A pair of 21-year-old youngsters, midfielder Roy Miller and striker Cristian Bolanos, won't have the pressure to star this time, but Guimaraes already is looking to them to gain the experience needed to help the team qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Defenders Harold Wallace and Michael Rodriguez also could be key for Costa Rica. Both are recovering from knee injuries and will be with the team if they are healthy, according to Guimaraes. Costa Rica may be an outsider in Germany, but it was last time, too. And that turned out fairly well. good. The ''Ticos'' beat China 2-0 and then held eventual semifinalist Turkey to a 1-1 draw. The team then lost to Brazil 5-2 and finished third in the group behind Turkey on goal difference. Guimaraes left after the tournament, but he was brought back into the team after Costa Rica struggled early in CONCACAF qualifying for this year's tournament. The team ended up third behind the United States and Mexico. ''We've learned our lesson,'' Costa Rican soccer federation president Hermes Navarro said of the decision to let Guimaraes go. While Germany and Poland will be tough opponents, Costa Rica is hoping for an easier match against Ecuador, a team it knows well after a series of friendly matches. The last time the teams met, however, Ecuador won 2-1. (AP)

Topics : Football
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