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Is Abraham good enough for Chelsea?


America eye playoffs in Clasico Nacional

Five Aside

Not here to make up the numbers?


Costa Rica are known for their inconsistency as much as for their flair, a trait that was highlighted during the wild fluctuations in results during Los Ticos' eventful passage through CONCACAF's convoluted qualification system.

During the 18 matches that comprised the three different phases Costa Rica managed only two away wins - against neighbours Panama, ranked 81st in the world, and Canada, 85th - and scraped into the final automatic qualification place on their home form.

Having said that the Ticos are heading to their third World Cup, having qualified for Italia 90 and Korea/Japan 2002, and returning coach Alexandre Guimaraes promises that the Ticos have learnt lessons from the last tournament - they will no longer be a 'naive fair-play team'.

At the 2002 Finals they beat China drew with semi-finalists Turkey and lost 5-2 to eventual champions Brazil in probably the most open attacking game of the tournament. The Tico's only lost a single game but the Turks went through on goal difference to deny them a place in the last sixteen.

Despite taking part in every World Cup qualification process since 1958 the Tico's only reached the final for the first time in 1990, when they claimed two memorable European scalps under the management of Bora Milutinovic.

Speedy striker Hernan Medford spearheaded a team that beat Scotland 1-0, lost 1-0 to Brazil in the group stage, to a 'lucky' goal deflected off defender Mauricio Montero's backside, and beat Sweden 2-1 to claim a place in the last sixteen at the Europeans' expense. Unfortunately they were hammered 4-1 by Czechoslovakia in the knockout stage.

But Despite being relatively inexperienced on the World Cup stage the Central American country has bagged a plethora of titles since the official foundation of the Federación Costarricense de Fútbol in 1921. The Ticos won the CCCF Championship on seven occasions before it was replaced with the CONCACAF championship, which they won on three occasions.

They were also crowned Central American champions in 1993, so all in all the Ticos can claim a haul of 11 medals - not bad for a country with a population of 3.9 million.

The gaffer

Brazilian born manager Alexandre Borges Guimaraes returned to take control of the country's faltering qualification bid from Jorge Luis Pinto in April 2005 and guided Costa Rica to their third World Cup finals.

Guimaraes had previously coached Los Ticos to the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan with an almost perfect qualifying record. He lost only one match at the finals, to Brazil, to cement his position as one of the most loved icons in Costa Rican football.

Guimaraes moved to Costa Rica at the age of eleven and spent almost his entire playing career at Deportivo Saprissa, the most popular team in the country. He became a citizen in 1985 and played for the great national team of 1990 that reached the last sixteen of the World Cup in Italy.

After calling time on his playing career Guimaraes continued his affinity with Saprissa - winning three national tournaments as manager. He also coached several teams outside of Costa Rica, such as CSD Comunicaciones of Guatemala, Real Irapuato and Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico.

But he returned to his adopted home to embark on a career in international management and during the course of the 2002 World Cup he pitted his wits against his mentor, and former coach of that famous 1990 Costa Rica side, Bora Milutinovic and beat his China team 2-0 at the Gwangju Stadium.

Although their campaign ultimately ended in disappointment Guimaraes insists the Ticos learnt some harsh lessons about being a 'naive fair-play team'.

For the 2006 World Cup Guimaraes will draw the majority of his players from three clubs; Herediano, Alajuelense and Saprissa so his players will have a good understanding in Germany.

One to watch

Los Ticos continue to rely heavily on former Manchester City, West Ham United and Derby County striker Paulo César Wanchope Watson, who will make Germany 2006 his swansong in football.

The 30-year-old forward, who currently plays for Club Sport Herediano, in Costa Rica can be wonderfully unpredictable, veering wildly between the brilliant and the inexplicable; Wanchope is an entertainer and infuriate in equal measure.

Wanchope began his career with Herediano, but really became a household name when he went to England to play with Derby County, in 1997. His trademark gangly style and twisting running soon impressing the Pride Park Crowds and he scored a memorable goal against Manchester United on his debut in which he beat four players.

The Heredia-born player then endured an unsuccessful spell at West Ham until the summer of 2000, when Joe Royle boosted his squad for Manchester City's Premiership return by paying £3.6 million for his services. Those that had doubts about his ability were quickly silenced when he grabbed a hat-trick on his home debut against Sunderland.

It was downhill from there, however, and rumours of a bust-up between player and manager saw Wanchope placed on the transfer list before suffering injury for which he needed an operation on a cartilage problem. When he returned six weeks later he only managed to add seven goals to his total for this season.

Royle's sacking and the appointment of Kevin Keegan in his place seemed to give Wanchope a new lease of life, only for a persistent problem with his right knee to force him out. However, when he returned from receiving specialist treatment in the USA he managed to score a remarkable 29 goals in all competitions.

His exploits earned him a place at the 2002 World Cup with his country, where he scored twice against eventual champions Brazil as Costa Rica just failed to make the Round of Sixteen.

His knee troubles surfaced again and he suffered with it for the next few seasons at City. At the end of the 2004 season, Wanchope was sold to La Liga's Málaga CF for £500,000, where he won an ESPN goal of the season award for his strike against Numacia during the 2004/05 campaign.

At international level Wanchope remains hugely important and on October 8, 2005, Wanchope became the all-time leading goal scorer for Los Ticos when he scored the first goal in a home win over the USA. At the time of writing Wanchope had scored 43 goals in 67 international matches.

  • If you have any thoughts you can email Dominic Raynor.