Costa Rica cook up something ‘special’

Costa Rico coach Jorge Luis Pinto, with his players on the training ground, is a big fan of Jose Mourinho’s approach to football. Hard work, he insisted, has been the key to Costa Rica’s success at Brazil 2014.
Costa Rico coach Jorge Luis Pinto, with his players on the training ground, is a big fan of Jose Mourinho’s approach to football. Hard work, he insisted, has been the key to Costa Rica’s success at Brazil 2014. AFP

Costa Rica cook up something ‘special’

Coach Jorge Luis Pinto believes Jose Mourinho’s football philosophy has helped the shock side of the World Cup progress to the quarter-finals in Brazil

The ‘Special One’ is having a major impact on the ‘Special Ones’ at the World Cup - and he doesn’t even know it.

Jose Mourinho’s football philosophy is one of the reasons why Costa Rica are in the last eight of the tournament in Brazil. Their fairytale run to their first quarter-final owes a lot to the coaching strategy of the Chelsea manager.

“I agree with Mourinho who says football is first about training methods: the conception, the practice and of course the strategy,” said Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto.

Mourinho may never have been a national coach but his success mainly with Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan has rubbed off on the 61-year-old Colombian-born Pinto, who along with his unheralded team has been the biggest surprise of the finals.

Victories against former champions Uruguay and Italy, and a draw with England in the final group game made sure they reached the last 16. A courageous win on penalties against Greece clinched a quarter final tie with the Netherlands this week. “My first task is the coaching and how to go about it, in order to get the most out of the training sessions as possible,” said Pinto, whose experience at tournaments prior to the World Cup was limited to coaching Colombia in the 2007 Copa America and Costa Rica at last year’s Gold Cup.

“That is just like to Mourinho.” Pinto began his career with Millonarios, based in Bogota, and has since coached 10 other clubs. Like Mourinho, who he has never met, Pinto is an ardent believer in the ethic of work and more work to keep his players sharp.

That was illustrated in his reaction after the 1-0 win against Italy in the group stages that guaranteed them a place in the last 16.

“We will not rest on our laurels. Our World Cup is far from over,” said Pinto, who did not want his players to relax.

Instead he kept them mentally sharp for the final group game against England. By clinching a draw in that match, Costa Rica made certain they would top a very difficult group.

Since the result against Greece, Pinto is now willing to bask in what the little Central American country – sandwiched between Panama and Nicaragua and with a population of just 4.8 million – has achieved. “We have shown that we can play good football and that makes me proud,” he said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

“Football is my life, my passion, my profession and my distraction. But it evolves like the world, cars, computers. We must also evolve, in order to keep up with the constant changes in our sport.”

Costa Rica will need to evolve if they are to beat the Netherlands in an intriguing tie. Dutch captain Robin van Persie and midfield star Arjen Robben will be confident they can end Costa Rica’s remarkable run.

So far, they have six goals between them, and Costa Rica will need goalkeeper Keylor Navas, hero of the victory against Greece, to be at his best once more if Los Ticos are to stop the Dutch from reaching their second consecutive semi-final.

“I wouldn’t swap Robben for any player in the world. He’s having an amazing World Cup,” said Dutch teammate Dirk Kuyt. “He has been brilliant in this tournament.”

Robben has certainly been outstanding, making penetrating runs and scoring crucial goals. In the last-16 victory against Mexico, the Bayern Munich winger was superb.

“Right after the game, it was quite hard to appreciate what we had just achieved,” he told FIFA.com. “With three or to four minutes to go, we were out of the tournament. Then at the final whistle, we didn’t even need extra-time – we had qualified. Two goals in five minutes – it was a fantastic comeback.”

With his blistering pace and superb close control, Robben has been a key to the Netherlands’ success in Brazil, tormenting defenders with his clever play.

“I just feel very strong,” he said. “I feel good, I feel fit, and I think that’s the most important [thing] because I can transfer everything on to the pitch. I’m having a lot of fun and really enjoying it here.

“In the second half [against Mexico], I was on the ball more and I could threaten the opposition going forward. That’s a nice feeling.”

But Robben realises that the Dutch will face a titanic battle against Costa Rica. “They are a very strong team,” he said.

“We have to stay focused. Costa Rica have already proved they deserve to be in the quarter finals after topping a tough group, which included Italy, England and Uruguay.

“They’ve been really impressive and we’ll have to prepare very well if we’re going to beat them and progress to the semi-finals. That would be a dream come true.”

Maybe Robben and his teammates should give Mourinho a ring.

Post Weekend
Compiled from AFP

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