If Costa Rica are to prevail against Brazil in the semi-final of FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 tomorrow night, they will have to avoid the mistakes that saw them routed by the same opponents in their opening game of the group stage. Los Ticos bounced back from that painful 5-0 reverse to embark on an historic campaign here in north Africa, but there will be no margin for error in Cairo this Tuesday.
So what will be the key to a different result this time? "We'll need to be smarter and pack more of a punch. We also need to punish them when we get the chance as they're simply ruthless. We learned that the hard way. If there's one thing I'm sure about, it's that we won't be gifting them anything," says Marcos Urena, who netted his side's quarter-final winner against UAE in the dying seconds of extra time.
"I don't know if I'd go that far," the player told FIFA.com in response to the suggestion that he had been the hero of the hour. "What do I recall about the goal? The truth is that I was shattered by then and my legs were gone. Still I managed to keep up with the play and, when I saw the ball teed up in front of me, my only thought was to hit it hard and goalwards. And that's exactly what I did. I still don't know where I got the energy to celebrate it - some inner strength maybe," recalls the Liga Deportiva Alajuelense youth academy graduate with a broad smile.
Saturday's triumph over UAE was the second game in succession that Costa Rica had run out at the International Stadium in Cairo to face a partisan crowd - and the second time they came up trumps. "Against Egypt we were playing against 70,000 fans but we got the job done. Against the Emirates, even though there was a smaller crowd, it was still obvious they were rooting for our opponents. However, we showed a lot of heart and commitment, and also how much it means to pull on this jersey," says the pacy front-man with the powerful right foot.
Urena admits the team have some work to do in defence ahead of the Brazil clash and cites a good example from the UAE match. "Beforehand we all knew they'd try to get at us down the flanks and cut balls back. So how did they score? Of course, with a break down the right and a cut-back!" he says incredulously.
"Equalising so soon afterwards gave us a real shot in the arm as we'd started sluggishly. But we never thought we'd let is slip as we're very strong defensively. We felt the only way they could score would be with a shot from distance, and they didn't really try to do that until late on," adds the 19-year-old.
Urena was typically vocal during the quarter-final and could frequently be seen urging his team-mates on. "I kept telling them, ‘Stay strong at the back as when our chance comes we'll score and go on to win this. And that's how it happened." For the striker, however, the group's maturity has been the key to their success. "We prepared conscientiously like everyone did, but perhaps we were able to make better use of our top-flight club experience than some of the other sides," explained the player who made his professional first-team debut at just 16.
So what now? "We were hoping to get another shot at Brazil. Our opening game was a nightmare for all of us, but for me in particular, as I played very poorly and missed a couple of chances." Ahead of the semi tomorrow, Urena also suggested his side could learn from some of Brazil's other games, saying: "Perhaps we need to be more compact at the back and try to get at them on the break, just like the Czech Republic did [in their group stage draw]."
In the final analysis the Tico striker says his side have nothing to lose now, as he points out before signing off: "We came into this tournament with the aim of still being here on the final day, and we've already accomplished that. From now on, everything is a bonus."