Tight-knit Ticos ready to rebound
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After a narrow 1-0 loss to Nigeria on Sunday, Costa Rica coach Geovanni Alfaro Hernandez knows that his team must get something from table-topping Japan in their second match on Wednesday to have a chance of advancing from Group F.

As he told FIFA.com, he feels as though his team has put some nerves behind them against the impressive 2005 finalists and will be going forward ready to face the considerable challenges of the rest of the group stage. "We were a little tense, which is probably normal in a first match for all of the teams at a World Cup," he said from the team's hotel in Victoria on 2 July. "But Nigeria were a difficult opponent for us.

"They may even be better than in the last tournament," revealed the 51 year old. "They are so explosive and to play against them is hard. Our players are maybe a little disappointed, but we know we can play better, and we still have time to fight our way out of the group."

Looking to attack
He was heartened by the way his side showed off more of their attacking prowess after the break against the Africans, and he's confident that they will create more chances against the Japanese. But, he's not taking the Asian runners-up lightly, especially after their impressive 3-1 victory against Scotland.

"We need to study the match a bit more before we settle on a game plan," the tactician revealed. "It's difficult in this group because all of the three teams we face have very different styles of play, none of which our players are very used to. So, we've tried to settle on a system of playing that we can use for all the matches and just make minor changes to against different sides.

"But, the Japanese are very fast obviously, and they have a lot of technique as well. They would be a problem for any team."

Building success on success
As the coach of the U-17 Ticos side that reached the quarter-finals of the 2005 World Cup in Peru only to fall to eventual champions Mexico in extra time, Alfaro has 10 players from that team with him in Canada. It has formed the core of a side that is particularly cohesive on and off the pitch.

"It's very good to have these players advance from the U-17s because they are used to playing in a group, and we all know each other well," he explained. "It's very useful to have them make up the heart of the team."

And, in general, a spot in the U-20 World Championship is a special one for a nation that missed out on the last two editions. As Alfaro explains: "It's great to be here for us because Costa Rican players get to see and play against teams from other countries, and the same the other way around. The tournament is a good learning experience for everyone.

"It's also very important for the Costa Rican public. We have a lot of interest in the U-17 and U-20 teams at home, so obviously we want to make them happy as well."