Sports

Los Ticos’ Pinto puts his faith in youth

COSTA RICA

Costa Rica make their fourth finals appearance and coach Jorge Luis Pinto’s youthful squad will be intent on springing a few surprises.

Little is expected of the Central American nation, but Pinto’s men should prove a wholly different proposition to the last Costa Rica team to reach world football’s grandest stage eight years ago.

Los Ticos trudged home without a point to their name in 2006 - a brace from flamboyant striker and national hero Paulo Wanchope in the opening match against the hosts was one of few good moments in a wretched campaign.

The 2002 vintage also fell at the first hurdle, unable to emulate a World Cup debut at Italia ‘90 where victories over Sweden and Scotland before elimination at the hands of Czechoslovakia in the round of 16 still represent a high for Costa Rican football.

Previous World Cup experience will be lacking, but Fulham attacker Bryan Ruiz (above) Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas and Olympiakos’ on-loan Arsenal forward Joel Campbell lead a strong European contingent.

Twelve of these featured among the squad as Ruiz and Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio netted to see off Mexico in the final round of Concacaf matches, with qualification already secured.

Such a relatively trouble free passage to the finals was welcome in Costa Rica, given their 2010 play-off heartache at the hands of Uruguay - a factor that adds a delicious edge to the group opener in Fortaleza.