Bora Milutinovic was the coach for China at the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan. Photograph: Ben Radford/Allsport
Bora Milutinovic was the coach for China at the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan. Photograph: Ben Radford/Allsport

The man who coached Costa Rica to a shock 1-0 win over Scotland in 1990 that helped them qualify from their World Cup group has warned England the Central American team will be no pushovers next summer.

Costa Rica are, on paper, the weakest of England’s opponents in group D, which also includes the Euro 2012 runners-up, Italy, and seeded Uruguay, currently the sixth best side in the world, according to FIFA‘s rankings. But Bora Milutinovic, who has coached five different sides at World Cups, said Costa Rica had the right mentality to defeat England if Roy Hodgson’s side underestimated them.

[quote]”At this World Cup there will be some great coaches,” he said. “Roy Hodgson is a great coach and England have some good players. The question, for me, is whether they can show it on the field. I don’t know if they can. But I think Costa Rica have the mentality to beat England. In fact, I know they do because of what happened with my side in 1990.”[/quote]

At Italia 90 his Costa Rica side defeated Scotland and Sweden to advance to the second phase in a group in which they also lost narrowly 1-0 to Brazil.

[quote]”We played against Scotland, a great Scotland, with many good players, in Genoa and we won, 1-0,” he recalled. “Then we also played Sweden. If someone asked us before the game if we could win, and we said we could, they’d have looked at us as if we were crazy. They would have called us crazy but we did win and won well.[/quote]

[quote]”Because you never know, because you can never predict what will happen, this is why football is the greatest sport. Of course, England will be favourites but the Costa Rica players will look back on 1990 and know it is possible, that they can win.”[/quote]

England will face Costa Rica in Bello Horizonte – the city in which they lost to the US in 1950 – in their final group match on 24 June.

Milutinovic coached Mexico at the 1986 World Cup, the USA at their home World Cup in 1994, Nigeria in 1998 and China in 2002. The 69-year-old Mexican-Serbian is the only man apart from Carlos Alberto Parreira, who will be Brazil’s technical director next summer, to coach five different sides at the World Cup finals.

Following the draw Hodgson warned that Costa Rica should not be underestimated. “It is going to be quite difficult to put a positive spin on the quality of our opponents,” he said. “Costa Rica might be the least known but they are a very strong team.”

Milutinovic said that England had to develop a winning mentality if they were to fulfill their potential. “I tell you something: for me the biggest surprise in world football is that a big country, a great football country, like England, can think it doesn’t have a chance. Of course you have a chance but you need to believe, you need to trust in your character, as players and as a team, your quality. You have players the world knows and when you have good players anything is possible.”

Source: The Guardian UK