June 21, 2018 / 7:12 AM / 3 months ago

Soccer: Brazil game a family affair for Costa Rica's Borges

GELENDZHIK, Russia (Reuters) - Celso Borges will follow in his father’s footsteps on Friday when he plays for Costa Rica against Brazil as the family’s World Cup odyssey against the five-time champions continues.

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Costa Rica vs Northern Ireland - National Stadium of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica - June 3, 2018 Costa Rica’s Celso Borges in action with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Borges’ father, Alexandre Guimares, grew up in Brazil until he moved to Costa Rica with his parents when he was young. He would go on to both play for and manage the ‘Ticos’ against Brazil at the World Cup.

Now, 28 years after his father faced Brazil as a player at Italia 90, it is Celso’s turn to put aside his strong family links to the South Americans in a vital World Cup game.

“I can’t deny it, there is a connection, of course - my connection to Brazil is maybe not as strong as my father’s, but some part of me still feels like it belongs there,” Borges told Reuters in an interview.

“I’m 100 percent Costa Rican and I would choose Costa Rica every time, but I cannot deny this family connection. It’s just a very special feeling.”

The feelings of his father, who managed Costa Rica in a 5-2 loss to Brazil at the 2002 World Cup, may be slightly more mixed when his two nations face off on Friday, however.

“Of course my father feels Costa Rican, he left Brazil when he was 12, but he has that Brazilian part that is very intense in him,” Borges said.

“Whenever you play Brazil, in any circumstance, it’s always something special, it’s always something different.

“It’s the country with the most World Cups, so it’s very different, but it’s still the game, it’s still enjoyable and it’s still fun.”

Not only has the 30-year-old’s international career taken him in his father’s footsteps, during the last World Cup in Brazil it also took him to Recife, where his father’s parents came from.

“It was crazy, because that was where we beat Italy and ended up qualifying for the quarter-finals,” Borges recalls.

That 2014 side hit the headlines by defeating Uruguay and Italy and drawing with England to top their group, before beating Greece on penalties and losing a quarter-final shoot-out to the Netherlands.

In Russia, however, Costa Rica are already on the back foot having lost to Serbia in their opening game.

“I don’t think it was clear that any team deserved to win that game, but sometimes football is very complex - there’s a very thin line between winning and losing,” Borges said.

The Costa Ricans would not fall into the trap of focusing all their defensive efforts on Neymar, the midfielder said.

“If you concentrate too much on one guy, they can just put on another in attack, so you just have to be very organised, have good communication and marking. You can have everything planned but with this kind of player, it’s tough.”

Even with a decent result on Friday Costa Rica face an uphill task in their final group game against a Swiss side that drew 1-1 with Brazil in their Group E opener, but Borges said the squad could still advance to the knockout rounds.

“We Costa Ricans are capable of great things when we join together and stay tight. I always think there’s a possibility,” he said.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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