By Philip O'Connor
STOCKHOLM, May 5 (Reuters) - Costa Rica's Celso Borges will not be fazed by facing some of the best midfielders in the world when his side take on three former world champions in Uruguay, Italy and England at the World Cup in Brazil.
In an interview with Reuters in Stockholm where the 25-year-old midfielder plays his club football for AIK, he also suggested his country can shock that trio in Group D.
Having qualified for the World Cup by finishing second to the United States in the final round of the protracted CONCACAF qualifying competition, the step up in quality from the Swedish top flight to the international top flight is not a prospect that holds any fears for the tough-tackling midfielder known for his powerful shooting.
He is looking forward to playing some of the world's top midfielders like Italy's Andrea Pirlo and England's Steven Gerrard.
"I won't feel intimidated, they're just the same as me, they just happen to be playing in a better league," he said of the prospect of facing the pair.
"I don't think there's any difference between not only me, but us Costa Ricans and England or Italy - that's just how the game is.
"Most bookmakers will have Costa Rica coming bottom of the group. I understand it, but I don't accept it. Once the game starts, if we have a good game plan it's about strategy and about will.
"We have a lot of individual players that are playing well, we're a solid team. England, Uruguay and Italy are all former world champions, but after you analyse it everyone has the same chances."
The tournament will have a little extra spice for Borges who comes from the Costa Rican capital of San Jose. Brazil is his father's homeland.
His dad Alexandre Guimares is a hugely-respected figure in Costa Rican football, who played for and managed the national team at the World Cup, as well having both roles at leading club Deportivo Saprissa.
"My real hero is my dad," said Borges, before describing the current state of Costa Rican soccer as being a blend of Brazilian and European styles.
"Our league is more like Brazil, a bit more freelancing, not so many tactical dispositions. In the national team we've managed to build ourselves a little bit like we did in Italy in 2006 - a solid defensive group with very good players in attack.
"When we win the ball we counter-attack quickly. We don't elaborate too much, it's more like a knockout punch."
With his contract with AIK due to run out in the summer of 2015 Borges is aware that the World Cup is a shop window, but he will not be changing the way he plays just to attract potential suitors.
"I play to my strengths. Just because we're in the World Cup I'm not going to try dribbling past three players and do a step-over. My game is a passing game, a tactically smart game and getting into the boxes, both offensively and defensively."
Despite AIK's sluggish start to the Swedish season, Borges believes that the fact that he is playing in one of Europe's smaller leagues will not have any effect on his World Cup preparations.
"If you really want to prepare in an international manner, you can do it. The highest demands you can have are of yourself. It doesn't matter which league you play in."
With nine players in the starting eleven playing outside of the Americas, Borges said that his team mates used a smartphone messaging app to stay in touch between gatherings.
"We have our own WhatsApp group with everybody commenting on what's going on. Everybody is very enthusiastic, looking forward to the World Cup."
With just a few league games with AIK before he joins up with the Costa Rican squad again, Borges is relishing the challenge that the underdogs face and said that his side can pip Italy and England to the knockout stages.
"I think we can qualify from this group. I would love to see ourselves and Uruguay go through," he said, adding that he is looking forward to the moment with the referee starting Costa Rica's opening game against Uruguay in Fortaleza on June 14.
"There's a lot of talk before, but all that stops when the whistle blows." (Reporting by Philip O'Connor, edited by Mike Collett and Justin Palmer)
- Sports & Recreation
- Costa Rica
- Celso Borges