Football

The secret to Costa Rica's success

GROUP D

COSTA RICA v ENGLAND

(Tonight, 11.59pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & StarHub TV Ch 223)

Costa Rica's team have not only been a source of national pride, but also international acclaim.

Assistant manager Paulo Wanchope throws some light on the reason for their success.

The 37-year-old former Derby County, West Ham United and Manchester City forward said the Ticos' progress is down to improvements defensively.

He said: "We have been improving for the last year and a half.

"We knew that we needed to work a lot on the defensive side, we needed to be more disciplined because we knew that we have great players that meant we can score against anyone but we have been working very hard on the defensive side."

Midfielder Celso Borges revealed more to the Guardian: "The group of death, they say? Just remember, it all depends on us.

"Individually, we are probably far behind them but we have our strengths, the most important one being our team-spirit.

"We are a disciplined, well-organised team, solid at the back, with the 'one for all, all for one' spirit. We do not play for ourselves and our careers; we play for every Costa Rican that supports us."

The Central American team may need just a point against England tomorrow midnight (Singapore time) to secure top spot in Group D but coach Jorge Luis Pinto will still ring the changes, according to Wanchope.

Costa Rica have been one of the major surprises of the tournament so far, beating both Uruguay (3-1) and Italy (1-0) to secure their passage to the last 16 before even kicking off against England.

If they avoid defeat, they will be assured of topping the group but they will have one eye on the knockout rounds and Wanchope - who scored in both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups - says they will give some fringe players a chance.

"The first thing is to manage our emotions. We've already qualified (for the second round) but it is important to look forward, it's important to keep growing as a team," said Wanchope. - Wire Services.

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