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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Martinez is streets ahead
Costa Rica's Gilberto Martinez Vidal
The Italia 90 success inspired Martinez
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In 1990, when Costa Rica last qualified for the World Cup, Gilberto Martinez Vidal was on the streets trying to earn a crust by scavenging and selling whatever he could find.

Twelve years later, he is on his way to Japan and South Korea as one of Costa Rica's most highly-rated stars.

"I had a very difficult childhood," Martinez told Sport Online.

"When I was young, my father had an accident that prevented him from working, so I had to go out onto the streets and sell whatever I could to get money for the family.

"But I still made time to watch the matches, and what I saw marked me for life.

"The way the team played, and Hernan Medford's goal against Sweden, made that a very special time for Costa Ricans."


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I hope this Costa Rica side can improve on the achievements of the Italia 90 boys. If we do we can inspire new generations and help football in our country to improve.
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Gilberto Martinez

Current China coach Bora Milutinovic is hardly short of World Cup stories.

But he has none greater than his adventure in Italy when he led Costa Rica to victory over Scotland then, even more improbably, to the second round, as Medford's 87th-minute strike gave them victory over Sweden.

And that goal, more than anything else, inspired Martinez to cast aside his life of poverty and make his name in football.

"There is nobody I admire more than Medford for the way he played and for his personality," he said.

"Now I know him, and we're good friends. It's wonderful, because he advises me and always talks about sport.

"I'm very fortunate, because he was a childhood hero. I remember that when I first met him, I didn't know what to say, or how to treat him. He was always kind though, and made things easy."

Hernan Medford
Medford's goal against Scotland inspired Martinez

Martinez is realistic enough to know that the second round, or perhaps the last eight, is the limit of Costa Rica's ambitions.

But equally, he knows just how important such an achievement would be to his country.

"The party hasn't stopped since we qualified," he said. "When you're in the street, people stop to talk to you and congratulate you.

"It's fantastic but it also makes you realise you have a responsibility.

"I hope this Costa Rica side can improve on the achievements of the Italia 90 boys.

"If we do we can inspire new generations and help football in our country to improve."

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GROUP C
  P GD PTS
BRAZIL 3 +8 9
TURKEY 3 +2 4
COSTA RICA 3 -1 4
CHINA 3 -9 0

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