Profiles - World Cup Teams - Costa Rica
Costa Rica It has been 12 years since Costa Rica last appeared in the World Cup finals, but if any nation can benefit from such a prolonged absence it is the Ticos.

The 2002 finals in South Korea and Japan marks only the second time Costa Rica has qualified for the finals following their debut at Italia '90 where they made the second round.

Since then, the Ticos - with the exception of Manchester City striker Paulo Wanchope - have languished in relative anonymity making them one of the 'unknowns' of the 2002 edition.

Wanchope, desperately hoping to recover from an ongoing knee problem, is clearly the focal point of the team that became the toast of the CONCACAF region as they won the group winning seven of their 10 matches and losing only once.

Boasting a balanced squad of veterans and youth, the core of the Costa Rica team is hitting their prime performing years.

While unpredictable at times, the Costa Ricans employ an attractive attacking style of play and often shift to a 4-3-3 formation which utilises overlapping attacks from the defensive flanks.

The approach, which helped the team outscore CONCACAF opposition, 17-7, periodically leads to breakdowns in defence. Currently 27th in FIFA's world rankings, the Ticos were one of the more entertaining sides at the 2001 South American Championships in Colombia.

Led by Wanchope, who quickly became a crowd favourite, the Costa Ricans won their group before making a quarter-final round exit after losing to Uruguay.

The heart and soul of the team lies in lower-profile players: defenders Harold Wallace, Jervis Drummond and Reyanldo Parks and a midfield corps of Wilmer Lopez, Mauricio Solis and Walter Centeno. Veteran goalkeeper Erick Lonnis adds considerable strength to the defence.

But it is the triumvirate of Wanchope, Hernan Medford and Rolando Fonseca that gets the attention, especially from opposing defences. At 33, Medford is one of the team's elder statesman and the only survivor from the Italia '90 team where he gained some celebrity for scoring the goal against Sweden that put the Ticos into the second round.

Clearly a step or two slower than he was then, Medford may be in the twilight of his international career, but he continues to be play a vital role and an adept foil to Wanchope and Fonseca. Fonseca and Wanchope form the most lethal partnership in the region.

Mixing speed and a natural nose for goal, the duo can change the face of a game when they are on song and have proven a collective nightmare for opposing defences. Fonseca, 27, has grabbed 38 goals in 74 appearances while the 25-year-old Wanchope has a rate of 34 strikes in 47 games.

Costa Rica can be a team of extremes. The Ticos lost to part-timers Barbados in the semi-final round of qualifying, but a year later defeated perennial regional powers Mexico at the cavernous Azteca Stadium in Mexico City where the hosts had never suffered a loss in a qualifier.

They will certainly add an exciting unpredictable element to the finals. homepage