Costa Rica’s coach, Jorge Luis Pinto has denied his team will go into their round of 16 game against Greece in Recife, claiming the next set of European opponents must be respected just as much as England and Italy.
Having topped a difficult group and been largely responsible for sending those two nations home early Costa Rica progressed in much more impressive fashion than Greece, who lost their opening game and failed to score a goal until their final match against Ivory Coast, but Pinto believes it is too soon to take anything for granted.
“We are still writing the history of football for our country,” he said. “For that reason, because we know how much the country is enjoying our World Cup, we want to do it right. We are not favourites. Greece are a strong team, aggressive as well as technical, who have some very good players.
“They won the European Championships in 2004 so they have a pedigree, and they have the merit to reach the next stage of the tournament, though of course we also believe that of ourselves.
“We know we have surprised the world, not just our country, and there is no ceiling on our performance. We want to go as far as we can but we must approach this game in exactly the same way as we approached the others. We trust in ourselves, try to control the space, and do the defensive work we usually do.”
Pinto has done his homework on Greece already, not just reviewing their games in Brazil but even finding tapes of Fulham in action to familiarise himself with the players based in England. Like Costa Rica themselves, Greece are mostly formed of home-based players plus a few with lesser clubs around Europe.
“They possibly are a bit like us,” Pinto said. “Few would have expected this last-16 match, but here we are and one of the teams must win. There is no reason why that should not be Costa Rica. My message to the players and to everyone at home is to think big. Be realistic, but still think big. We have all the motivation we need, we have shown that already, but we would like to do something even better for our country. I don’t say we are favourites but I do say we can win, and write some more history.”
Costa Rica have been to the last 16 of a World Cup before, in 1990, but never any further and never have they posted such surprising results against fancied teams such as Uruguay and Italy.
Michael Barrantes, their squad midfielder, said the atmosphere within the camp was relaxed despite all the publicity and increased expectation. “We are calm, because of the work we have done already. We don’t feel we have made it yet, but we are working towards our goal. We may not be giants of world football yet but we are not dark horses either. In this tournament we have lost that nickname. People are now referring to us as Costa Rica, and that feels good.”