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   June 4, 2002 | 1130 IST



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Costa Rica coach faces former master

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Costa Rica coach Alexandre Guimaraes faces the man who took him to the pinnacle of his playing career later on Tuesday when the Central Americans take on China in their opening match of the World Cup.

Guimaraes was a player in the Costa Rica side which defied expectations to reach the second round of the tournament in Italy 12 years ago.

The coach of that team was Bora Milutinovic, who is now in charge of China's debut World Cup campaign.

"Bora knows a lot of things about our team and because of that, I think we're going to have to be very motivated against the Chinese," Guimaraes said after his side's training session at Kwangju's World Cup stadium on Monday.

Costa Rica are China's weakest opponents in group C, which also includes Brazil and Turkey, and a defeat would severely dent Chinese hopes of reaching the second round.

Up to 40,000 Chinese fans are expected to travel to South Korea for the finals although they have so far been conspicuous by their absence in this southern city.

Many are expected to make a day trip to the match from China while tens of millions more will watch the game on television from Beijing to Tibet.

Only 1,000-odd Costa Rica fans are expected in Kwangju, but the stakes are also high for the Central Americans on their second appearance at the finals.


They must improve on poor results recent friendlies and injuries to their main strikers if they are to match their admirable performance in 1990, when they beat Scotland and Sweden.

After five days training on the southern island of Cheju, Milutinovic pronounced his team fit and ready, playing down concerns about injuries to two key players -- midfielder Qi Hong and defender Fan Zhiyi -- and pressure from the Chinese fans.

China will rely on linchpin Fan to marshal a rock-steady defence alongside Sun, and rising star Li Weifeng, to keep out Costa Rica's dangerous if unpredictable striker Paulo Wanchope.

Wanchope will spearhead the attack but it is unclear who will partner him. Ronald Gomez is favourite although Rolando Fonseca, the highest goalscorer in Costa Rican soccer history, is pushing him hard for his place.

Probable teams:

China (4-4-2): 22-Jiang Jin; 7-Sun Jihai, 5-Fan Zhiyi, 14-Li Weifeng, 4-Wu Chengying; 18-Li Xiaopeng, 8-Li Tie, 19-Qi Hong, 9-Ma Mingyu; 10-Hao Haidong, 20-Yang Chen

Costa Rica (5-3-2): 1-Erick Lonnis; 15-Harold Wallace, 3-Luis Marin, 4-Mauricio Wright, 5-Gilberto Martinez, 22-Carlos Castro; 6-Wilmer Lopez, 8-Mauricio Solis, 10-Walter Centeno; 9-Paulo Wanchope, 11-Ronald Gomez

Match referee: Kyros Vassaras (Greece)

Linesmen: Carlos Matos (Portugal) Jaap Pool (Netherlands).

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