Borges' feet do the talking

Official duties might be over for senior Panama coach Alexandre Guimaraes, but the former Costa Rica international and head coach still has a vested interest in Canada 2007. Currently catching the eye with his playmaking abilities in the Costa Rica midfield is his son Celso Borges, one of the veterans of a team that is battling for survival in the land of the maple leaf.

The Deportivo Saprissa youngster was a member of the Tico team that went all the way to the quarter-finals at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2005, a run that only came to an end with defeat to eventual champions, Giovanni Dos Santos's Mexico. As discovered when it caught up with the blossoming Borges at the end of an intensive training session in Burnaby, the midfield creator and his team-mates are drawing on all their experience as they prepare to face the Scots.

"Quite a few of the team were in Peru and we then had the chance to play in the first division in Costa Rica," explains Borges. "That has helped us a lot in preparing for a challenge like the U-20 World Cup, where there's so much pressure and expectation. Playing in the first division helps you develop and mature even though the standard is not the same as the European leagues."

Borges has lived and breathed football since he was a baby, although, as he explains, being the son of a famous player has hardly smoothed his path into the game. "My father has been more of a hindrance than a help," he chuckles. "When you start out comparisons are inevitable. Back home though, people have a tendency to criticise others when they don't even know them. When I started with the U-17s I knew full well people would have a go at me if I didn't play well. There were even one or two who started criticising me before I'd even kicked a ball. They soon shut up when we qualified for Peru 2005 though."

Despite being saddled with that burden, Borges is still keen to take his father's advice to heart. "Before I came here he told me to stay calm on the pitch and, as I've been doing up to now, to put the team before any personal goals. This tournament is like a shop window and it can open a lot of doors for you. I'd love to get the chance to play outside Costa Rica and keep developing," continues the artful midfield man, whose dream is to further his footballing education in the English Premiership, his favourite league of all.

Last chance saloon
Still without a point following a brace of 1-0 defeats to Nigeria and Japan, the Ticos are hopeful of beating Scotland to claim a place in the Round of 16 as one of the top four third-placed sides.

"The morale in the camp is high but we know the situation we're in," he says. "Even though we've not been happy with our performances so far, we never give in. Just coming here and taking part is not enough. We want more."

"We always go out to win. Whenever we pull on the jersey, it's our honour and pride that are at stake. We would have liked to have finished first or second but we'll be doing our utmost to win the last game and stay alive," he vows.

And as Borges explains the Costa Ricans have been quick to learn form those two opening defeats. "We've got to make sure we don't give away possession when playing the ball across the pitch because teams have been hitting us off balance. We also need to put our chances away. That's where we're failing."

Like his heroes Zidane and Kaka, Borges is a midfield orchestrator with an innate gift for bringing others into play. "Some people have said I've not been at my best here, but that's not true," he insists. "As long as the coach and my team-mates are happy with the way I'm playing then I'm going to ignore what anyone might be saying." Given that his father has given him a good grounding in the ups and downs of the game, he seems perfectly able to handle the criticism and the media spotlight.

Content with his contribution to date, he also believes he has the key to scuppering the Scots. "They are physically strong and very direct. They're good players, but I think we need to attack them down the flanks and hit them quickly whenever we break forward."

For Borges and his cohorts the trick now is to put theory into practice.