A whole new chapter is set to commence in the history of Costa Rican football on Saturday, when the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2014 gets under way in the Central American nation.
This year's tournament will be just the fourth edition, but the competition, first launched in 2008, has already proved a huge success. Above all, it has given younger female players the chance to show they possess technique to match their elders, and match attendances have grown since its inception as a result. Record figures are expected again this year too, as the competition pits experienced sides against newcomers hungry to demonstrate they deserve their place among the world's elite.
Costa Rica ready to impress
Costa Rica 2014 will also be the second edition of the tournament to feature games on artificial pitches, after Azerbaijan 2012. The action will take place in four host cities – San Jose, Liberia, Tibas and Alajuela – with the last two boasting synthetic pitches provided by FIFA.
The Estadio Nacional in the capital, San Jose, will be the venue for the curtain-raiser between the hosts and Venezuela, and Costa Rica coach Juan Diego Quesada is optimistic his side can make a positive start. "We hope to live up to the standard of Costa Rican football and reap the rewards of all our recent work," he said, though he is conscious of the pressure certain to weigh on his charges in front of a capacity crowd. Nevertheless, he has faith in his team and has set a goal of progressing from the group stage, which would be a historic first for Costa Rica.
Debutants and old hands
Elsewhere, current holders France will not be able to defend their title as they fell short during the qualifying campaign in Europe, opening the door for a new side to lift the trophy. Also absent will be USA, runners-up in 2008 and perennial rivals of Germany at every age group in the women's game, after they lost out to Mexico on the road to the finals.
Italy and Zambia will be making their U-17 Women's World Cup bows, meanwhile, and both will be keen to make a strong impression. In contrast, seven teams will be back for their fourth tilt at the competition, with Germany, Nigeria, Canada, Ghana, New Zealand, Japan and 2008 winners Korea DPR all hoping to make their experience count. Each of those talented sides has what it takes to thrill the crowds, raising the prospect of some enthralling encounters.
Sixteen teams dreaming
"A dream you dream alone is only a dream," John Lennon once sang. "A dream you dream together is reality." The former Beatle may not have had football on his mind when he wrote those lyrics, but they undoubtedly have a universal resonance. Over the 21 days of the tournament, 16 teams will be vying to realise the collective dream of their 21 squad members and coach: namely, to brandish the trophy and return home bathed in glory. For some, Costa Rica 2014 will be the first step on a long path towards stardom as icons of the women's game. But whoever wins, every player will benefit from representing their country at a major international tournament – and each is certain to leave full of cherished memories to share with their loved ones.
You too can experience all the thrills by following the competition on FIFA.com, which will be providing exclusive coverage of the festivities as they unfold in Costa Rica. Visit our website for interviews with the players and transport yourself to the heart of the action with photos and videos from every game, from the first kick-off to the moment a champion emerges.