Costa Rica will be making a return to the FIFA U-20 World Cup at Canada 2007 after missing out on the previous two tournaments. This will be the sixth time the Ticos have reached the finals and judging by the strength of their squad, the central American giants have every reason to be optimistic about their chances. Led by explosive striker Jean Carlos Solorzano and the seemingly unbeatable Alfonso Quesada, widely tipped to be one of the goalkeepers of the tournament, the Tricolor will be looking to at least match the quarter-final place achieved by the selfsame generation of players at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005.
Costa Rica qualified courtesy of their second-place finish in Group B of the CONCACAF tournament staged in the Mexican city of Culiacan. Despite starting out as favourites to bag one of the two qualification berths, the Ticos made unexpectedly hard work of group opponents Jamaica and St. Kitts and Nevis before prevailing 2-0 and 3-2 respectively. In the final game, with top place at stake, the Costa Ricans gave as good as they got against Mexico but had to settle in the end for runners-up spot after a 1-1 draw.
Geovanny Alfaro is living proof of the importance of continuity. In a zone renowned for its managerial merry-go-round, the U-20 Costa Rica coach has been able to implement a plan that started to bear fruit at Peru 2005 and which has continued to produce results despite the move up to an older age category. While inculcating the virtues of discipline in his players, Alfaro also encourages his charges to play with typical Costa Rican flair and make the most of their tremendous athleticism. It is under his tutelage that the likes of Jean Carlos Solorzano, Cesar Elizondo and captain Rudy Dawson have flourished.
Blessed with rock-star looks, Solorzano has the talent to become a major figure on the world scene. An unmistakable presence on the field with his curly black hair and headband, explosive pace and lethal long-range shooting, the Alajuelense forward should have no trouble in attracting the attentions of the European scouts flocking to Canada 2007.
Very much the figurehead of the side that went to Peru 2005, Solorzano is the leader of an extraordinarily talented generation of players that includes other rising stars such as Quesada, midfielder Celso Borges and skipper Dawson, all of whom turned in eye-catching performances two years ago.