Costa Rica target Dutch scalp
Costa Rica (AFP)
Santos - Costa Rica midfielder Christian Bolanos is confident ahead of the first World Cup quarter-final in his country's history, against the Netherlands on Saturday.
And he bases that confidence on quite a powerful argument.
"If we did well against Uruguay, Italy, England and Greece, why can we not do it again against the Netherlands? It does not cross our minds that we might lose," Bolanos told dpa in an interview.
Costa Rica, the tournament's most surprising team, are set to play the Dutch in Salvador.
Bolanos, 30, who is currently a free agent, is one of his team's most outstanding players in Brazil, along with forwards Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell.
Bolanos admits that Costa Rica's aim was to get through the first round. However, they topped a group containing former world champions Italy, England and Uruguay.
"From then on the only thing we think about is to get to the end," he said.
"If we have got this far, it is not for nothing. This is a time when you have to make the most of things - we are in a very good position."
Bolanos says Costa Rica have "the same chances" as the Netherlands of making it to the semi-final, although he admits that they have great respect for the former World Cup finalists.
"We have faced tough tests, and the fact that we have come through them has helped the squad grow, but this has not happened overnight," he said.
"In today's football you cannot win a match just because you go in there and dream that you are going to score a goal, there has to be work to back it up.
"We don't want to go home: we want to play the next match, win it and see what's next. We are doing that as if we had been doing it all our lives, and that is a beautiful feeling," he said.
"People who have won things have also started from scratch. Why not see Costa Rica in a World Cup final?" Bolanos played in the tournament in Germany in 2006, when the Central Americans - whose best World Cup result until now had been the 1990 round of 16 - were eliminated in the group round without a single point.
At the time, very few Costa Ricans were playing abroad, and that was a handicap, he recalls.
"Here, the group has that wish to make history, and the only responsibility we had was to match what Costa Rica had done in Italy 1990," Bolanos said.
He admitted that suggestions that they stood no chance in the tough Group D served as motivation for Costa Rica.
"The truth is that on paper we are one of the weakest national teams, I accept that, but nowadays in football distances have shrunk," Bolanos said.
He credits coach Jorge Luis Pinto with having shaped the side's tactics in defence, which have served them very well in Brazil.
"He helped us a lot so that we did not give up those spaces to our opponents. Those details that are very valuable in a World Cup."
Bolanos may be without a team for next season, but he wants to put that aside until the tournament is over.
"In this team, although its players are very young, we understood that (the World Cup) was an opportunity, a springboard. If we each thought in individual terms we would not have achieved such success," he said.
"The team is above that, and individual opportunities will come later."
Costa Rica face the Netherlands at 22:00 on Saturday.