Marin: The dream’s still alive
© AFP

Luis Marin is not usually one for showing emotion. Yet even the battle-hardened Costa Rican defender could not contain his disappointment after Los Ticos conceded a last-gasp equaliser against the United States in their final game of North, Central America and Caribbean Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.

Having led 2-0 at the interval in Washington DC, second-half goals from the Stars and Stripes' Michael Bradley and Jonathan Bornstein, the latter in the fourth minute of injury time, snatched a direct passage to South Africa 2010 from Costa Rica's grasp and means they now face a play-off against two-time world champions Uruguay.

Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, the Liga Deportiva Alajuelense defensive stalwart gave his insight on how the team have bounced back since that painful blow, how they intend to overcome Los Charrúas, and his excitement at potentially taking part in his third FIFA World Cup finals.

"That's behind us now," was Marin's emphatic reply when quizzed about Los Ticos' confidence since that heart-breaking setback in the US capital. "Of course it was a heavy blow, but mentally we've handled it well. Coach Rene Simoes spoke to us about it and we also looked at how we ourselves were to blame. Only God knows why it had to happen like that, but from now on we've simply got to focus on the matches against Uruguay."

"Morale in the camp is very good at the moment. We're working hard, we're motivated and we're really looking forward to the match. Our dream of reaching South Africa is still alive," added the central defender.

"We've been together since last week, so we've been training together for several days now. The arrival of our foreign-based lads will help us put the finishing touches to our preparations, but we'll be ready in time."

After being part of the Costa Rica squads at Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, Marin had found himself left out of the picture following the adventure on German soil. As a result, his call-up by coach Simoes for La Tricolor's qualifying run-in came somewhat out of the blue.

"Yes, it was a surprise," confirmed the experienced Tico performer. "I hadn't really been involved during the qualifying phase but as soon as Professor Simoes took charge he called me up. I didn't expect it but once there I focused on using my experience for the good of the group. And that's what I've carried on doing, whether I've played or not. Hopefully I can do my bit and help the squad come through this tie."

Moreover, should Marin reach next summer's global showpiece, he and team-mate Walter Centeno would become the first Costa Ricans to play at three FIFA World Cups. "Nobody has ever done that before now. Of the guys who are still in the team, only Walter and I have played at two finals. Of course that's a huge motivation as I know these are my last two qualifying matches. I'll give everything I've got to qualify for another World Cup: it's would be something historic for Costa Rica and Central America."

However, the veteran is fully aware of the difficulty of the challenge ahead: "It makes sense that given their history and many other factors, Uruguay are the favourites on paper. But on the field it will all come down to 11 versus 11. We respect them but we've got belief in our own ability."

"We dream about it, we think about it and we really want it," said Marin as we draw the interview to a close by asking how it would feel to clinch qualification on 18 November in Montevideo's mythical Estadio Centenario. "Let's hope we can do it and be the ones celebrating after these two games."