Football

Poker-faced Pinto has Costa Rican plan for Pirlo

Costa Rica's head coach Jorge Luis Pinto listens questions during a press conference. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

RECIFE, Brazil: Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto is relishing the opportunity of "playing poker" against his Italian counterpart Cesare Prandelli when the two sides meet in their Group D clash on in Recife Friday.

Expected by most to prop up Group D, Costa Rica confounded the experts by demolishing Uruguay 3-1 in their opening game to install themselves as the surprise leaders after their first round of matches.

Speaking at a news conference at the Pernambuco arena, Pinto was keeping tight-lipped about his tactics but revealed that he had found a way to deal with Italian playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who dominated England as Italy won their opening game 2-1.

Asked if he had developed a plan to stop the mercurial midfielder, the 61-year-old from Colombia was unequivocal.

"Yes. It is true that I worry about Pirlo, and also De Rossi. I've been studying Pirlo since 2006 because for me he was the best player at the World Cup. We have studied him and we'll have to be able to stop them," he said.

"If Pirlo plays well he's going to be a danger at free kicks, Balotelli the same. They all fight, they're all difficult. They're also very good at the tactical level."

But Pinto was by no means talking down Costa Rica's chances of another shock victory, suggesting instead that his side had a lot more to give following the victory against Uruguay.

"We got three things from that Uruguay match - trust, security and we know that we can play as a team," the Ticos coach said. "Our players realise that what we are doing is right."

"I told my team that during the first minutes (against Uruguay) I was nervous. It's normal to be nervous, and they were nervous too. But now we are happier and calmer."

The pugnacious Pinto, who has twice been banned in his career for brawling with rival managers and officials, says he is not unduly worried by the prospect of being second-guessed by Italy coach Prandelli.

"We have enough alternatives. We've been training and we have a plan B," Pinto said. "Even if he guesses our plan, we don't just have one solution, we have many solutions.

"We're playing poker, you could say."

Pinto was flanked on the podium by defender Giancarlo Gonzalez, who echoed his manager's self-assured manner.

"I'm proud to play against players whose names are known all over the world," Gonzalez said. "But when I'm out there on the field I don't care about any other player. I just do try to do my best so that my team can win."

Pinto, who has won titles in Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela, said he was looking forward to the support of the Brazilian crowd, who have so far being getting behind the Latin American teams at the World Cup, and that he had no doubts coming into the Italy game.

"I never have doubts," he said, summing up his feelings ahead of Friday's game.

"I have alternatives, but never doubts."

 

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