- POSTED: 25 Jun 2014 10:00
Central American minnows Costa Rica are determined to extend their fairytale World Cup run after finishing ahead of England, Italy and Uruguay to top the Group of Death.
BELO HORIZONTE: Central American minnows Costa Rica are determined to extend their fairytale World Cup run after finishing ahead of England, Italy and Uruguay to top the Group of Death.
Los Ticos had already assured themselves of a place in the last 16 with wins over Uruguay and Italy before clinching first place in Group D with a 0-0 draw against England on Tuesday.
Yet, whilst the world may be stunned by their efforts, those within the camp always believed they could achieve great things in Brazil.
A football mad nation of just 4.6 million people expected much of the most talented squad they had ever sent to a World Cup in their fourth finals.
"For us, it wasn't a surprise because we know the great talent that we have. We will keep working and keep surprising the world," said assistant coach Paulo Wanchope, who enjoyed a six-year career in the Premier League in England with Derby County, West Ham and Manchester City.
Costa Rica's current crop of stars is spearheaded by Bryan Ruiz who cost Fulham £10 million ($17 million) when they signed him from FC Twente three years ago.
Ruiz's guile is complimented by the pace of Arsenal's Joel Campbell, whose goal against Uruguay was further evidence of his burgeoning talent after an impressive season with Greek side Olympiakos, which included a memorable goal against Manchester United in the Champions League back in February.
However, the base of their success has come from their solidity at the other end of the field.
Costa Rica conceded just seven times in 10 games in the final stage of qualifying and have only been breached by an Edinson Cavani penalty in three matches in Brazil.
Goalkeeper Keylor Navas was expected to star after a stellar season in La Liga with Levante, but he hasn't been overly troubled by Uruguay, Italy or England thanks to the organisation of the defence in front of him.
Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto can take the majority of the credit for the discipline with which he has drilled his side.
And despite their remarkable success so far, Pinto is determined that their Brazilian journey will not end with a meeting against Greece in the last 16.
"We played the three games with desire, respect and total commitment. We want this to continue," he said.
"We know that what is next to come will be difficult, but we are confident.
"We aspire to more, we want more. All the group is convinced we can."
The Costa Rica side of 1990 which stunned Scotland and Sweden before falling to Czechoslovakia in the second round have gone onto become legends in their homeland.
Yet, having already sent Italy and England packing, it would be folly to write off Pinto's surpassing even their achievements come their meeting with the Greeks in Recife on Sunday.