Costa Rica may be new faces on the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup scene, but they will not be travelling to New Zealand just to make up the numbers. Having pulled off a surprise by finishing runners-up at the CONCACAF Women's U-17 Championship, the Tica youngsters are determined to transfer their upwardly mobile progress onto the world stage.
To do so they will need to hit the ground running, after they were drawn to face women's football superpowers Germany in their very first group encounter. Coach Juan Diego Quesada's charges are relishing the challenge, however, and are equally keen to tackle fellow Group B opponents Korea DPR and Ghana.
For many years it has been the same old story for Costa Rican women's national teams. Drawn together with established forces such as the United States or Canada, the Ticas invariably ended up competing against Mexico for the third available qualifying place - evenly matched contests their northern rivals usually edged in nerve-wracking and dramatic fashion.
And the familiar story appeared set to repeat itself at July's regional competition in Trinidad and Tobago after the young Tricolores were dealt a comprehensive 6-0 opening defeat by the USA. Showing admirable resolve, however, they bounced back to secure a solid 0-0 draw against the host nation and a spectacular 8-1 success over El Salvador. The latter result, combined with the United States' 9-1 rout of T&T ensured Costa Rica squeezed into the last four.
Awaiting them in the semi-finals were Canada, a team that had proved an unsurpassable barrier for the Costa Ricans in the past. But this generation of talented Tricolores were determined to rewrite the script, defending capably and springing lighting counter-attacks to catch the Canucks off guard and record a 2-0 success - a historic win that ensured their involvement at New Zealand 2008.
This year's competition, to be held between 28 October and 16 November, will be a second FIFA U-17 World Cup finals for Costa Rica's women's coach Juan Diego Quesada. The first of these came in the men's event at Trinidad and Tobago 2001, where he helped his team to a respectable seventh-place finish.
The 47-year-old strategist boasts 20 years' experience in first- and second-division clubs in Costa Rica, and has acquired a reputation as an excellent nurturer of young talents. As well as his time in charge of the men's U-20 squad and several of the country's regional select sides, Quesada has also worked as an assistant coach for Costa Rica's senior national team.
Aside from his coaching qualifications, Quesada has a master's degree in Physical Education, majoring in football, obtained in Prague, Czech Republic between 1991 and 1994.
Players to watch
Coach Quesada generally favours a 4-4-2 formation, with team captain Katherine Alvarado a key figure in midfield. Alvarado is also blessed with an enviable eye for goal, top scoring for her side with five strikes at the CONCACAF Women's U-17 Championship.
Other notable performers are keeper Priscilla Tapia, defenders Adriana Guzman, Gabriela Guillen and Maria Isabel Barquero, midfielders Daniela Cruz, Mariela Campos and Jacqueline Mata and forwards Raquel Rodriguez Cedeno and Raquel Rodriguez Vasquez.
What they said
"I'm aware that the World Cup is New Zealand is going to be terribly tough, but you have to have the highest of hopes if you wish to demand the greatest of efforts. My biggest concern for this World Cup is improving the players' standards. They must understand that this isn't just an adventure: this is about hard work, respect and fighting spirit. They've got the opportunity to continue making history." Costa Rica coach Juan Diego Quesada.
|11||Raquel RODRIGUEZ CEDENO|
|12||Raquel RODRIGUEZ VASQUEZ|
|SAMUEL Juan Diego|