No fear for tough-talking Ticas
© AFP

“I wouldn’t miss the 2010 World Cup in Germany for anything in the world,” says Costa Rica skipper Katherine Alvarado, reflecting the desire and enthusiasm of the Ticas squad as they prepare for their first ever appearance at the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup.

The Central Americans made it to Germany 2010 courtesy of a memorable performance at the CONCACAF qualifying competition, sealing their place in the finals with a 1-0 defeat of regional champions Canada, the only goal coming from Alvarado. “It didn’t really sink in at the time,” the matchwinner tells FIFA.com. “It was a decisive game and there was a lot at stake. The team’s joy summed it all up though. We are a very close-knit unit and it was a team performance.”

We’ve played together for several years now and we know each other well. We’re hoping that will show in Germany.
Costa Rica captain Katherine Alvarado

Many of the girls who will be travelling to Germany already know what it means to represent the country at a world finals, having formed part of the side that reached the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup New Zealand 2008. “We’ve played together for several years now and we know each other well,” adds Alvarado. “We’re hoping that will show in Germany.”

Though Las Ticas went out in the first round on that occasion, the experience should prove invaluable as they continue to pursue their objective of taking the women’s game forward in Costa Rica. And for the likes of Alvarado and Priscilla Tapia, the chance to take on the world’s best is also a deserved reward for all the sacrifices they have made. “I was only 13 when I left my little village in the Gautuzu Valley and went to the capital, San Jose,” explains the captain. “It’s not easy to leave your family and go to a city where you don’t know anyone. But just being able to play in the national team and experience two World Cups has made it all worthwhile.”

The man responsible for guiding her and her team-mates to Germany is Randall Chacon, who was promoted from assistant coach in October 2009 and has spent the last few months on the lookout for talented youngsters to bring into the squad. “We’ve been trying to change the philosophy of the team so we can improve our results and achieve more,” he says, before pointing to the sense of togetherness that is helping his side reach those goals. “It’s great that they’ve been working together since they were young and that they know each other so well on and off the pitch. On top of that, they also gained some valuable experience during the qualifiers.”

Nothing to lose
Costa Rica will certainly need to draw on that in Germany, where they have been drawn in a formidable Group A along with fellow debutants Colombia, France, who took fourth place at Chile 2008, and the tournament hosts, third two years ago and their opponents in their opening game. “That’s going to be an extremely difficult match,” says Alvarado. “We played against the Germans in New Zealand [the Germans winning 5-0]. But this time it will be different. Playing against the big teams is a source of motivation for us. We have the ability and the skills to take them on.”

Chacon shares her confidence and is tipping his side to spring a surprise or two: “It’s a tough group but I’m convinced we can reach the next round. We have a gameplan and we’ll be looking to acclimatise ourselves in Europe as quickly as possible. Once we do that, we can start to dream.”

And despite their lack of pedigree in the tournament, Las Ticas are determined not to be overawed by the rivals. “We’re happy to be in a difficult section,” says Chacon, offering the final word on his side’s chances. “It’s a challenge to be playing Germany, France and Colombia. We need to be at our very best and break through our opponents’ defences. I'm sure that we'll get the chance to spring a surprise.”