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Soccer-Joyful Costa Rica ready for more giant-slaying

Reuters

By Andrew Cawthorne

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, June 24 (Reuters) - Defying their underdog status to top a group of three former world champions, jubilant Costa Rica are ready to do it all again in only their second ever World Cup last 16 appearance.

"We've given Costa Rica status in the football world. Noone can say it was chance, luck or just for a few moments," coach Jorge Luis Pinto said after Tuesday's 0-0 draw with England that followed remarkable wins over Uruguay and Italy.

"It was a really complicated group of very experienced teams. But we came to fight and compete, and we have done. We've been very constant. I hope we can keep on like that. We'll give our all whoever we face next."

Group D winners the 'Ticos', who last reached the second round in 1990, will now face the runners up of Group C, who could be Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan or Greece depending on how the games play out later on Thursday.

Pinto paid tribute to England, who changed nine starters from their last game to give the next generation a chance to garner experience but then brought on the experienced Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney to no avail at the end.

"They have a good attack and strong defence. It's a team that didn't have any luck," he said.

"It wasn't easy for me with the changes they made - quality players like Gerrard, (Raheem) Sterling and Rooney. I told you they weren't going to go home without a point."

Pinto was thrilled too with the thousands of Costa Ricans who celebrated the draw and chanted "Ole, ole" throughout the match at Belo Horizonte's Mineirao stadium.

"I'm so happy for Costa Rica. I know the love they have for football," said the Colombia-born coach. "May they keep enjoying it! I've loved the three games. We've played a sure, dynamic football. We're unbeaten, it's historic."

It was the first time Costa Rica have ever gone unbeaten in the group stage. Though sticking to a five-man backline, Costa Rica have been anything but boring, with silky counter-attacks feeding speedy striker Joel Campbell and charging midfielders.

The Central Americans came closest to scoring on Tuesday when Celso Borges's curling free kick was tipped on to the crossbar by goalkeeper Ben Foster in the first half. (Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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