SAO PAULO (AP) — Only eight countries have ever won the World Cup, and in Brazil three of them face Group D underdog Costa Rica.
Coach Jorge Luis Pinto greeted them with a warning: "We respect England, Italy, and Uruguay. But they should know that we can play football too."
In Saturday's opener in Fortaleza, Pinto's men take on a Uruguay side which has high hopes of improving on its run to the semifinals in 2010, despite the uncertainty hanging over striker Luis Suarez following knee surgery three weeks ago.
Hard-working Costa Rica resumed training within hours of arriving on Tuesday at their southern World Cup camp in Santos, where Brazilian great Pele used to play.
Key to their success as a Central American spoiler, says the coach, is the notion that the pressure will be on all three of their opponents to win.
"We will play without fear. We face three world champions and we can take them all on," Pinto said. "What we feel is joy and motivation."
Pinto's plans could be rattled on Saturday if his loses central defenders Michael Umana and Junior Diaz, who are recovering from flu.
The Ticos are expected to rely on in-form goalkeeper Keylor Navas who plays for Spanish club Levante, and 28-year-old captain Bryan Ruiz, whose season was revived in the Netherlands after doomed Premier League club Fulham loaned him out to PSV Eindhoven before being relegated.
Ruiz guided the Costa Ricans as they efficiently went about the task of beating weaker opponents in qualifying to make their fourth World Cup appearance.
Against Uruguay, Pinto is more likely to use counterattacks, helped by Joel Campbell, an Arsenal striker on loan to Olympiakos who scored a superb goal for the Greek side in a 2-0 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League in February.