Wanchope discusses 2002, 2018 battles with Brazil

  • Wanchope reveals he was named after a Brazilian world champion

  • He revels in scoring against Ronaldo and Co in 2002

  • Wanchope discusses the Brazil-Costa Rica showdown at Russia 2018

Paulo Wanchope has fondly reminisced about Costa Rica’s exhilarating defeat by Brazil at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ and discussed the sides’ forthcoming showdown at Russia 2018.

A Ronaldo double and a spectacular scissor-kick from Edmilson had A Seleção 3-0 up in Suwon. Wanchope then produced an exquisite flick, which was part of a defence-unravelling one-two that enabled him to pull one back, and Ronald Gomez’s diving header got Los Ticos within one, only for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s charges to emerge 5-2 winners.

Yet despite the fact that result saw Turkey finish as Group C runners-up ahead of Costa Rica on goal difference, when asked by GloboEsporte to disclose his favourite memory from Korea/Japan 2002, Wanchope responded unequivocally: “Without doubt it was facing Brazil. For me and for the rest of the team.

“Having the chance to face great players, the favourites and [ – even more so given that they were led by Ronaldo, the top scorer – was something really special.

“It was a really good game, competitive, high quality. We went to compete, to play professionally, but in the end Brazil imposed their individual and collective quality.

“We were losing 3-0 and [my goal] made it 3-1 and then we made it 3-2. We continued pressuring with important attacks, but the quality of that Brazil side was really high and it didn’t happen for us.

“But scoring was a special feeling because I’d always followed the Brazilian national team, always had an affinity with them. Take my name for example: Paulo Cesar. My family has always been passionate about football – my uncle was a player and coach; my father, my brothers and all my family always followed Brazilian football – and I got my name in honour of a Seleção left-winger from 1970, Paulo Cezar [Caju].”

So, does Wanchope feel Costa Rica can do better in Saint Petersburg, where they will meet Brazil in their second outing of Russia 2018, than Alexandre Guimaraes’s class did 18 years ago?

“Costa Rica will have to play a perfect game, with the whole team playing 100 per cent, in inspired form,” said the former Manchester City forward. “Brazil are one of the few teams that can afford to have two or three players on an off day – the rest of the players will produce excellent football and pull off the result.

“So I think it’s crucial that when we face great big national teams likes Brazil, Germany, England, we are at 100 per cent. Obviously in football these days anything can happen. There are favourites, but it’s less predictable.”

Striker shy Wanchope nevertheless feels Costa Rica’s chances will be harmed by their lack of a target man. “In recent years we haven’t had that traditional striker, a point of reference up front,” said the man who quit a basketball scholarship in the USA to pursue a football career and went on to hit 45 goals in 73 internationals.

“We have [Marco] Urena, who plays more on the flanks, with speed and cross-shots, and we have Joel Campbell, who is a bit more volatile, who can play in behind, but I think there’s a lack of variation. We don’t have that target man, to receive the ball, hold it up and head it. We need more options.”

Brazil and Costa Rica have Switzerland and Serbia for company in Group E at Russia 2018.

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