In a little more than a fortnight's time Costa Rica will open the decisive fourth qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with an away game in Panama. While Los Ticos enter the Hexagonal campaign desperately seeking to make up for their near-miss on the road to South Africa 2010, two-time former coach Alexandre Guimaraes believes that the Central Americans are more than capable of clinching one of the region's three automatic qualifying spots.
"We have good chances of booking a World Cup return," the 53-year-old told FIFA.com in a recent exclusive interview. "We have a good team today, with an ideal blend of promising young talents and seasoned campaigners. The side performed well in the previous stage so they are heading in the right direction."
Few would, indeed, argue against Guimaraes and his knowledge of Costa Rican football. The former national team striker featured in the country's maiden FIFA World Cup appearance at Italy 1990 as a forward, before guiding the side to Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006 as coach. He went on to lend his experience as a technical adviser during the national team's bid for the past FIFA World Cup, and it was that failed campaign which provided him with more food for thought.
"We mustn't forget what we suffered during the last qualifying competition," said Guimaraes who took the reins at Chinese Super League outfit Tianjin Teda in mid 2012. "We were well-placed to seal our qualification in the latter stages, taking a 2-0 first-half lead in the closing game against USA. But we conceded two late goals to finish with a draw which saw Honduras progress at our expense. The past lessons must be learned if we are to make it for Brazil 2014 this time around.”
Like father, like son
The qualifying for Brazil 2014 has so far seen a host of fresh talents unearthed as Jorge Luis Pinto's Costa Rica side take aim at their fourth FIFA World Cup qualification. Among the notable promising stars is none other than Guimaraes' son Celso Borges, who made four appearances in the last stage including scoring in their 7-0 defeat of Guyana in the concluding match as Costa Rica secured a place in the last six.
Whether the 24-year-old striker-converted-midfielder is ready to take up his father's mantle is a matter for debate, but Guimaraes senior is hoping Borges simply continues his fine form with both club and country.
"He is playing well with his Sweden club AIK and is now among the team's top scorers," said Guimaraes with an obvious note of pride, "I hope he can make it to the current squad and continue to play in the last-six campaign for Brazil 2014."
Despite the high hopes, he chose to downplay his influence on Borges. He said: “He has chosen what he loves and has become a footballer. When the family are together we talk about not only football. But between him and me we exchange football experiences and I occasionally provide him with advice that he needed.”
Having participated in all of Costa Rica’s three FIFA World Cups, Guimaraes didn’t conceal the importance he felt about the global football extravaganza.
“World Cup, for me, means much,” he said. “It not only represents the world’s top-level football competition, but it has changed my life entirely. The 1990 World Cup was my country’s first World Cup and for us, it opened the door to the world.”
“Through World Cup people outside of our country began to know us and I had coaching chances in other countries - including my current job with Tianjin. World Cup has always a special place in my heart.”