BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — When the World Cup draw was made, Costa Rica was considered a rank outsider to advance to the World Cup knockout phase. Now, the Central American country is dreaming about winning Group D when it faces England on Tuesday.
Costa Rica is already through to the next round after surprise victories against Uruguay and Italy, and will be confident against an England team that was eliminated from the tournament after two defeats.
The country’s players are even looking beyond that, hoping to reach the quarterfinals for the first time and thereby surpass the feat of the 1990 World Cup team, which reached the second round before being knocked out.
“We have repeated history, but we want to be immortalized, because that’s what it’s all about,” midfielder Celso Borges. “We want to continue to make indelible memories for the people of Costa Rica. I think they deserve it.”
At the 1990 edition in Italy, Costa Rica finished second in its group and then lost 4-1 to Czechoslovakia in the next round.
“I can’t say what our limit is, because I don’t know,” Borges said. “We know that eventually we will reach it, but for now we will continue dreaming about rising and forging more history for our country.”
Coach Jorge Luis Pinto said he will rest some of his first-choice players for the match against England. However, Roy Hodgson’s side should be wary of taking a victory for granted.
“For the match against England, we will make some changes, because of the necessity to give a rest to several players,” Pinto said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re going to take it easy in the last group match … We will be looking to win.”
England, meanwhile, will be playing for pride in its last match after being knocked out following 2-1 defeats to Uruguay and Italy. It’s England’s worst performance at a World Cup in nearly six decades. Not since 1958 had England failed to make it to the second round of the tournament.
England’s return to Belo Horizonte won’t be met with fond memories. It was in this city that England lost 1-0 to the United States in 1950, which still ranks as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
Despite the two defeats, Hodgson is pleased with his team’s commitment at the World Cup.
“Results color everyone’s judgment and I am certainly happy with the way the players have prepared for these games,” Hodgson said. “I am happy with the effort they have put in, but we have played two experienced and strong teams and on both occasions we have come second.”
Forward Rickie Lambert said England needs to get over what happened and finish on a high.
“The fans deserve a win against Costa Rica,” he said.
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