> Sports > 2002 FIFA WORLD CUP 

   3 June, 2002 | 1045 IST



France get the blues

  More Slide Shows

Costa Rica gamble on strikers

E-Mail this report to a friend
Print this page Best Printed on  HP Laserjets

Costa Rica are preparing to field two patched-up strikers in their group C match against World Cup debutants China on Tuesday.

Their leading forward Paulo Wanchope is certain to start, probably alongside veteran Hernan Medford after both players have just about recovered from knee injuries.

Wanchope's injury at one point threatened to rule him out of the World Cup finals altogether, while Medford says he has recovered despite medics telling him to forget the tournament.

Wanchope has been training normally since the 'Ticos' arrived in South Korea, and travelled south from Seoul with the rest of the team on Monday for the match in Kwangju.

He played more than an hour in a recent friendly against Belgium and is likely to feature for at least as long against a Chinese side managed by former Costa Rica coach Bora Milutinovic.

But Wanchope, one of only a handful of Costa Rica players to have made the grade outside his tiny central American homeland, is playing down his importance to the squad.

"This team does not depend solely on me," he told reporters at the weekend. "We are a squad, and all my team mates are capable of performing well."

Wanchope had a second operation on his troublesome right knee last year but the injury flared up again in February and he was forced to miss the end of the season with English first division champions Manchester City.


Knees have been something of a problem for the Costa Ricans.

Captain Reynaldo Parks was ruled out of the finals three weeks ago after aggravating a knee injury, while Medford, the only survivor from their 1990 World Cup campaign when they reached the second round before losing to Czechoslovakia, looked to be out of the tournament after a knee operation in March.

U.S. medics told him to forget the World Cup or risk long-term knee damage, but Medford says he is fit to play.

He is likely to partner Wanchope up front on Tuesday with highly-rated 20-year-old striker Winston Parks on the bench in case those knees give way. Parks has been suffering a minor throat infection this week but is on the mend.

It is difficult to know what to make of Costa Rica, who have blown hot and cold over the past couple of years.

They were outstanding in the qualifying campaign, losing just once in 10 matches to finish six points clear of Mexico in their group. They also became the first side from central or north America to beat the Mexicans at home in a World Cup qualifier.

But their preparations this year have been shambolic.

Attempts to arrange friendlies against Denmark, Russia and Argentina came to nothing and they were beaten 1-0 at home by an experimental Moroccan side in March.

When Cameroon turned up in San Jose to play a friendly they brought only an under-23 team -- to the complete surprise of the Costa Ricans.

Recent results have been little better. They lost 2-0 to South Korea and drew 1-1 with co-hosts Japan on the eve of the World Cup.

Alexander Guimaraes's squad got a morale-boosting visit from former Costa Rica President Miguel Angel Rodriguez last week and have taken heart from the performances of other unfancied sides at this World Cup.

"We've seen what Senegal were capable of doing against France, the champions of the world," defender Juan Jose Rodriguez said.

Back to top
(c) Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.


(c) 2002 India Limited. All Rights Reserved.