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World Cup 2014

Costa Rica 1 (5) Greece 1 (3): Highlights, key battles and what the result means

Published on Jun 30, 2014 7:53 AM
Costa Rica's Michael Umana celebrates with goalkeeper Keilor Navas after scoring the decisive penalty during a penalty shootout in their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game against Greece at the Pernambuco arena in Recife June 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Costa Rica continued their fairytale run in this World Cup, as they reached the quarter-finals for the first time in their history with a tense penalty-shootout victory over Greece.

The Central American team thought they had won it in regulation time, but the Greeks equalised in stoppage time to send the last-16 tie into extra time. In the subsequent penalty shootout, Costa Rica scored all five of their spot kicks, while the Greeks missed one.


A poor first half saw precious few chances, but the match sprang to life seven minutes into the second half. Bryan Ruiz, who scored Costa Rica's winner against Italy, found the net again with a well-placed shot from just outside the box.

The match became increasingly bad-tempered, as reckless tackles came flying in with regularity. Costa Rica defender Oscar Duarte was sent off midway through the second half with a second bookable offence, while the referee dished out seven yellow cards in all.

Just when Costa Rica thought they had sealed their passage to the last-eight, Greece popped up with a late equaliser, with Sokratis Papastathopoulos stabbing home from close range after a goalmouth scramble.

Buoyed by their late equaliser, Greece seized the attacking initiative in extra time, but Costa Rica held on grimly to send the match into a penalty shootout.

In the shootout, Costa Rica were brilliant, netting all five of their penalties. Greece scored their first three spot kicks, but Theofanis Gekas saw his attempt stunningly saved by Keylor Navas. Michael Umana then stepped up to score the penalty to send Costa Rica through.

Key battles

Costa Rica's secret weapon is their three centre backs, who form a strong defensive base that, prior to this match, had not let in a goal in open play at this World Cup. Geancarlo Gonzalez, Umana and Duarte were well-drilled to cut out most crosses, and they are also mobile enough not to be outrun by quick forwards. Greece, who already had trouble finding goals, had to bring on all their key strikers in the end to eventually find the equaliser.

Man of the Match

Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas made two point-blank saves, one at the end of regulation time, another at the end of extra time, to keep Costa Rica alive in the tie. Add to those save his sublime block of Gekas' penalty in the shootout, and he deserves all the accolades for being a top-class stopper.

What the result means

Costa Rica, who were not even fancied to advance from the group stage, find themselves in dreamland as they reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. They do have a daunting task as they will face the free-scoring Netherlands, but they do have nothing to lose from here onwards.

Greece made the knockout stages for the first time in history, and display an admirable knack of finding late goals to save themselves from elimination. Yet for all their talk of being less negative in tactics, they do not have a proven scorer to net goals regularly, and that has proven to be their achilles heel.