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   June 13, 2002 | 1900 IST


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C. Rica return proud after epic match

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Costa Rica head home from the World Cup with the pain of an early exit tempered by the knowledge of having taken part in one of the tournament's epic encounters.

The Central Americans went down 5-2 to Brazil and out to Turkey on goal difference -- both teams finished with four points -- but they kept faith with their own attacking style and could easily have won an extraordinary match 7-6.

The game often seemed like a throwback to a bygone era as both teams abandoned the chores of defending and went upfield with seemingly wreckless abandon.

Curiously, it was the sort of match which Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari last year said was not possible in modern football.

"There's no more Beautiful Game," he said before a World Cup qualifier in Argentina last year. "You are not going to see the Brazil of 1958, 1962 or 1970 again. We are in 2001."

Yet on Thursday, the same Scolari sent his team onto the field with only one tackling specialist in midfield and with clear orders to attack from the outset.

With Costa Rica doing the same, the two teams produced the sort of game that perhaps only two Latin teams are capable of.

"It reminded me of the Brazil v Peru game in 1970, two teams playing with similar styles to this, a great game, lots of goals," said Costa Rica coach Alexandre Guimaraes, who was born in Brazil and became a Costa Rican citizen in 1984.


Of the seven Latin American teams at the World Cup, Costa Rica are probably the one which has remained most faithful to the traditional style of short passing, clever flicks and dribbles.

While the likes of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay have looked almost undistinguishable from European teams -- where most of their top players are based -- Costa Rica have kept their own identity, perhaps helped by the fact that nearly all of their players are home-based.

Guimaraes was asked why his team could not have played for the goalless draw, which would have given them the point they needed to go through.

"It was more important to defend our style," he said.

"Anyone could have played for the draw but we didn't want this, we wanted to show that we are good enough to compete and to play our own game," he added.

"We qualified very well with this type of game, we had an excellent Copa America with this type of game, fifth place, and with this type of game we were eliminated on goal difference," he said.

"I believe that Costa Rica is very proud of what we did in this game, of what we have done in the World Cup. We have always stood by this style, the players have shown they are good enough."

Asked about Brazil's defensive weaknesses, he replied:

"Instead of showing whether or not Brazil are weak at the back, Costa Rica played a game which showed the virtues of Costa Rica."

Unfortunately, over-elaborate finishing eclipsed those virtues and ultimately prevented the team emulating the success of their 1990 counterparts, who reached the last 16.

Costa Rica created a hatful of chances in all three of their group C games but, with striker Paulo Wanchope not at his best and their all-time leading goalscorer Rolando Fonseca not hitting form, too many went begging.

They started well, beating group lightweights China 2-0 in their opening game, but then drew 1-1 with Turkey before losing to Brazil.

"We have to learn from this experience because, in a short championship, if you let the opponents off the hook, you lose," said Fonseca.

"It would have been frustrating if we had not fought but we fought and we played good football."

Brazil's Juninho said he thought that Costa Rica, rather than Turkey, deserved to progress.

"They played very well," he said. "For me it's a shame because, after Brazil, I think they are the best team in the group. They should really have qualified but that's football. You a pay a high price if you don't take your chances."

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