Cordoba: Let's go all the way

“My feelings were all over the place. I didn’t know whether to dance around with joy or burst into tears,” Costa Rica player Roberto Cordoba told minutes after his side had beaten France 5-3 in a penalty shootout to advance to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015.

Cordoba was one of his side’s busiest players in a tightly contested tie, firing in a number of shots on Luca Zidane’s goal, taking his side’s second-half free-kicks and flighting in a superb cross deep into normal time for Andy Reyes to head against the bar, this after an intense first half in which the Costa Ricans withstood everything the French threw at them.

Reflecting on the game, which ended goalless, Cordoba said: “We were stretched in the first half. They dominated us and we weren’t able to play our game. After collecting our thoughts in the dressing room we decided to turn things around. We upped our confidence levels and went on the attack, and I feel we might even have won it in normal time.”

Nerves of steel When the dreaded penalty shootout came around, Los Ticos coach Marcelo Herrera had no hesitation in naming Cordoba to take his side’s first kick. Asked to sum up his feeling as he made his way to the spot, the youngster said: “I was really tense because it’s the most important kick in these situations. I couldn’t afford to miss and I had to score to give my team-mates confidence.”

Reflecting on a shootout in which he and his team-mates took up position in the centre circle and had their arms around each other throughout, he said: “They’re always dramatic occasions. You have to control your nerves, which is what we all did in the middle of the pitch, though that doesn’t mean to say we didn’t feel the pressure. When the French player missed we grew in confidence and we knew we were close. We each took our penalties really well.”

Onwards and upwards There were congratulations all round when it was all over, with the jubilant Tico players hailing the fans who had come to cheer them on before forming a circle in the middle of the pitch for a team chat and then making their way to the dressing room.

“We’re happy but we know that the road is long,” added Cordoba. “We haven’t come here to do what previous Costa Rica teams did (reach three quarter-finals). We want to do even better. Our goal is to reach the final and win the title.”

Asked if the exploits of the seniors at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ are proving an inspiration, the midfielder said: “They’re an example for us. They showed so much determination and fight that they took everyone by surprise. We want to follow in their footsteps and make our country proud.”

Signing off, he added: “Nobody thought we could beat France but we proved everyone wrong. We’ve got Belgium now and though they’re sure to be favourites, we’ll be out to repeat what we did today and stay on course for the final.”