Joel Campbell of Costa Rica and Spain's Sergio Canales are two of the most glistening prospects on planet football. They are set to square off as the Iberians begin their bid to win a second FIFA trophy of the decade and the Central Americans set out to surpass reaching the semi-finals two years ago.
Costa Rica-Spain, Sunday 31 July, Manizales, 3:00pm (local time)
Spanish football is on a high. They won the FIFA World Cup™ last year and the UEFA European U-21 Championship last month, while the country also houses the UEFA Champions League holders – an exceptional Barcelona side which comprises three graduates of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique. Out to emulate the former, who inspired La Roja to their only triumph in this competition in 1999, will be another supremely talented cast headlined by Real Madrid ace Sergio Canales. But while many believe a Spain victory in their Group C curtain-raiser is a formality, Costa Rica proved themselves a force to be reckoned with in the previous edition of this tournament two year ago, when they reached the semi-finals before a narrow defeat by Brazil ended their trophy hopes. And with Joel Campbell, a tricky forward coveted by a selection of European giants, eager to continue the eye-catching form he showcased at the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America events, Spain know they have a game on their hands.
40 – The age that makes Costa Rica's Ronald Gonzalez the youngest coach at this tournament. The former defender, who scored the only goal against Colombia at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1989, was, at 19, the youngest player to find the target at the FIFA World Cup one year later.
Ronald Gonzalez, Costa Rica coach: “Spain always keep the ball and when they change the speed of the play, they are very dangerous. But we have been analysing their traits and working on pressurising them.”
Daniel Pacheco, Spain forward: “I believe Costa Rica will be tough opponents. They've have a good trajectory and have quality players – we know all about Campbell.”