Following their frustrating semi-final defeats, Costa Rica and Hungary have been trying hard not to reflect on what might have been as they prepare for the third-place match at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009. After all, both sets of players are well aware that Friday's game represents a golden opportunity to claim a place in the top three for their first time in their histories.
Yet, as Tico defender Roy Smith tells FIFA.com the task of getting over a result such as his side's narrow 1-0 defeat to Brazil is easier said than done. "Losing a match is hard to take, no matter who you are. We gave everything we had out on the pitch and we didn't just sit back and defend. We wanted to win. We wanted to reach the final. But we switched off for a second and we paid the price."
The frustration is still etched on the face of Smith's team-mate, goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado. "The feeling in my mind is that Costa Rica could be playing in its first ever World Cup," he laments. "I'm down because I was certain we were going to win."
So what was the difference between the two teams? "They're champions and they can hit you at any time. I just wasn't expecting that goal. I said to (Alan) Kardec, ‘You can try that shot ten more times and you won't score.' But that one went in and there's nothing we can do about it now."
Asked for his views, coach Roland Gonzalez expresses admiration for the performance his charges put in against Brazil, a team he believes is the best in the tournament along with Czech Republic, the other side to beat the central Americans in Egypt. Understandably, he is optimistic ahead of the showdown with the Hungarians. "They're a similar kind of team (to the Czechs) although they like to play a little more football. We'll be doing all we can because this match is a final for Costa Rica."
"Given that we can't finish first or second now, we won't be satisfied with anything less than third," adds the defiant Smith before leaving it to Alvarado to sum up the thoughts of the Tico squad. "Third place will be a deserved reward for a team that has given so much to a small country like ours. I had my heart set on us being world champions but we should still be grateful to the game of football for giving us this opportunity. We need to make the most of it now."
Over in the Hungarian camp, meanwhile, the poor first-half showing in the semi-final against Ghana continues to cause bemusement. "You can always lose a game, but it's very difficult to accept that we played so badly in the first 45 minutes of a World Cup semi," explains Andras Gosztonyi to FIFA.com. "The most frustrating thing is that we showed in the second half that we had what it took to win the game and reach the final."
The 3-2 loss to the Black Satellites proved even harder to bear for Magyar captain Vladimir Koman, who missed the game through suspension. "It felt horrible to watch such an important match from the stands, especially in the first half when nothing worked for us and I couldn't do anything to help. We raised our game after that and could even have equalised, but it's too late now."
"It's disappointing to lose in the last four like that but at least we can look at the second half and take heart for the third-place match," says defender Adam Presinger, preferring to look on the bright side. "I think we deserve that consolation prize."
Should that prize come against the Costa Ricans, it will bring an end to a 37-year drought in which Hungary has failed to finish in the top three of a FIFA competition since claiming the silver medal at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament at Munich 1972.
Accolades aside, Koman believes Hungarian honour is at stake in Friday's match. "We need to look at the last game as an opportunity to prove to everyone that we could have done things better."
"That's right. We're more determined than ever now to show what this team is made of," adds midfield man Gosztonyi, echoing the views of both his skipper and tomorrow's opponents. "We want that third place and we're going to do everything we can to get it."