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Costa Rica Looking Forward to Second World Cup Appearance - 2002-05-08

Costa Rica is set make its second-ever appearance at the upcoming World Cup football finals in South Korea and Japan. It will be difficult for the team to duplicate its 1990 achievement of reaching the second round.

After struggling in the semifinal round of CONCACAF regional qualifying, the Costa Ricans finished on top in the final group ahead of Mexico and the United States. But for their first round Group-C games in South Korea, they will matched against China, Turkey and Brazil.

Coach Alexandre Guimaraes was born in Brazil but grew up and became a naturalized Costa Rican at age 11. He was a midfielder on the 1990 World Cup squad.

International football commentator Derek Rae says it's difficult to say just how strong Costa Rica is because it has not played enough matches against top teams outside of its region.

"Thrust into the spotlight against better teams, teams like Turkey and Brazil, will they be able to flourish? I rather have my doubts," he says. " They don't have too many star players. Of course the most obvious one is Paulo Wanchope, who has been living in England the past few seasons [playing forward for Manchester City]. Rolando Fonseca must get a mention as well. But Costa Rica, I think, would have to catch Brazil and Turkey on a real off day if they were to spring a surprise, and it would leave China as the only winable game for my money as far as they are concerned. I don't see Costa Rica as being good enough to make it through."

Ironically, being drawn against China, the Costa Ricans will get to face a team coached by the man who guided them to the second round in Italy 12 years ago. Serbian Bora Milutinovic, who also led the Americans to the second round of the 1994 U.S. World Cup, is now the head football coach for China.