WORLD CUP: Players to watch

Ronald Gomez (Costa Rica)

Ronald Gomez is one of Costa Rica’s most experienced and well-travelled stars, having plied his trade in countries as diverse as Spain, Guatemala, Greece, Kuwait and Mexico. The globetrotting forward is a finisher capable of turning a game with his searing pace and fearsome left foot. He is also something of a set-piece specialist and has proved himself flexible enough to play as a traditional number ten, operating in the hole just behind the strikers.

Gomez himself believes that the Costa Ricans need not look so far back for the key to success. He feels proud at how Costa Rica manfully attempted to qualify from a group containing the teams that went on to come first and third in the tournament. Gomez remains bullish about his side’s chances in Germany, saying: “There’s no doubt that this team is good enough to make it through the group phase, reach the next round and then strive towards one of the biggest achievements in our history.”

Randall Brenes (Costa Rica)

In what was a disappointing Costa Rican performance at the recently concluded 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup, one bright spot was the stunning debut of striker Randall ‘Chiqui’ Brenes. Spending the entire Group B opener against Canada on the touchline, the diminutive Brenes was thrown into the mix with the side looking out of ideas in their second match against Cuba.

Coming off the bench at the half, the 22-year-old striker provided the crucial spark that the ailing Costa Rican outfit needed with his first appearance for the senior national team. Without household names and tried-and-true scorers the likes of Paulo Wanchope and Ronald Gomez, goals were proving difficult to come by in the experimental Gold Cup squad. Brenes’ contribution to his first appearance came in the 61st minute, when he rose highest at the near post to nod past Cuban keeper Odelin Molina to open the scoring. After doing all the hard work to earn a penalty, captain Soto gave way to allow Brenes to claim his brace from the spot and complete the 3-1 win and an extraordinary personal debut for the national team.