Costa Rica is a world-renowned pacifist. Its constitution bars it from officially have a standing military. It instead houses the United Nations' University for Peace. But when it is drawn into a battle, it will rarely wave the white flag.
“We know how to attack Germany,” declared its football coach Breansse Camacho ahead of Saturday's U-17 World Cup Group C opener at the Fatorda stadium. “We are prepared to do our best. Of course we are physically not that good but we have our strengths. It’s going to be a great game.”
Yet, it is safe to assume that Camacho will fully know the magnitude of the effort required of his side. He does have at his disposal a rising star in Rodolfo Alfaro, dubbed the Luis Figo of Costa Rica, but Germany is one of the strongest teams in the competition.
The European giant has retained much of the core from the impressive bunch which only lost to Spain in the semifinals of the U-17 Euros on penalties. Among them is Hamburg's Jann-Fiete Arp, who barely days ago became the first player born after 2000 to play a Bundesliga match.
Coach Christian Wuck called him the “second captain of the team,” after Eric Majestschak. But in the same breath he also sought to project the most German of traits – the belief in the collective. “It's very important to remember that Germans are Die Mannschaft (The Team). We have 21 players and we are only as strong as the 21st man.”
Vying for the bragging rights on the same evening – and potentially a head-start in the race for second place in the group – will be Guinea and Iran. The Asian powerhouse was here in these parts for the AFC U-16 Championship last year and it emerged the runner-up. It won plaudits for the slick football it played with mid-fielder Mohammad Sharifi, one of the country's best young talents, coming for special praise.
But Guinea will be no pushover. Having lived in the shadows of other African biggies for long, the tournament finally provides it a chance to carve a niche for itself. It's unlikely it would want to miss out on that.