Football: Costa Rica boss hails 'beautiful' campaign

SALVADOR, Brazil - Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said his team had proved the doubters wrong and achieved "very beautiful things" with their historic run to the World Cup quarter-finals.

"Los Ticos" lost to the Netherlands on penalties but they were never beaten in open play despite facing three World Cup-winners and former European champions Greece.

"During this World Cup we've done very beautiful things. Many people didn't believe in us but we have seen we can achieve wonderful things," Pinto said.

"We've played great powerhouses of football and we haven't been beaten, even if we have to leave the tournament now. That's very important for us." The tiny Central American nation were written off after being drawn in arguably the tournament's toughest group, but they shocked both Uruguay and Italy and drew against England.

In the round of 16, they played for an hour with 10 men before beating Greece on penalties, and they held off the Netherlands before being shaded on spot-kicks late Saturday.

"Netherlands are a very strong team but we were still at an even level with them," Pinto said.

"We've shown we're able to organise ourselves, we've got good tactics and we were never afraid to play big powerhouses," added the 61-year-old Colombian.

"I think we've shown a very positive image of Costa Rican football, so we're happy." Costa Rica's run to their first World Cup quarter-final bears comparison with other giant-killers like North Korea (1966), Cameroon (1990) and South Korea (2002).

Organisation and solid defending were the hallmarks of a team which also featured the attacking talents of Arsenal's Joel Campbell and their captain, Fulham's Bryan Ruiz.

"I told my players that I'm very proud of them and the whole country is proud of them and we're proud because they've given everything on the field," Pinto said.

"It's not only football, it's attitude and the way they've behaved in all these matches." He added that he rated outstanding goalkeeper Keylor Navas as the best in the World Cup, despite a match-winning double save from Dutch substitute stopper Tim Krul in the shoot-out.

"I think Navas has been the best goalkeeper during this World Cup," he said. "Maybe this guy (Krul) wouldn't have stopped two penalties.

"I think it's a question related to luck. When stopping a penalty you must have luck and sometimes there are many things that can have an influence." Navas faced down 15 shots on target in an onslaught by the Netherlands as Costa Rica survived 120 minutes at 0-0 to force penalties.

Other goalkeeping heroics have come from USA's Tim Howard, who made a record 16 saves against Belgium, Germany's brilliant Manuel Neuer and Mexican Guillermo Ochoa also received rave reviews for some incredible saves against Brazil and the Dutch in their last 16 game.