Costa Rica into the Quarter Finals for the first time seeing off Greece in a penalty shootout
by Nick D
Jun 29, 2014 7:02 PM EDT
Greece only just managed to squeeze through the Group Stage after a late penalty saw them qualify second in their group. Costa Rica on the other hand finished first in their Group of death as they pushed three other former World Cup winners out of the World Cup race. Costa Rica were the favourites to win this match so the Greeks knew that they would need a special performance the victory. Though lets not forget about 2004 when Greece battled the best in Europe and lifted the European trophy, after everyone had said that they had no chance.
Costa Rica celebrate as they advance to the Quarter Finals for the very first time
The game was started cautiously by both teams as they slowly felt each other out and looked to see where the weaknesses might be. Both teams are very well organised in the back and known for their strong defensive play, so a low scoring game is what we prepared for. Greece would open the match slightly stronger of the two but Costa Rica showed their strength in the back as they limited Greece to shots from distance. Costa Rica looked to counter and Bolanos almost punished the Greeks as they slipped up in defence and gave away possession in front of their box. Bolanos peeled away from the defenders and as he made his way into the box down the left side, he was let down by his shot which was blasted well over the crossbar. The game settled slowly after those early chances and became a battle in the middle third, as both teams tried to take control of the possession. Costa Rica took the slight advantage and then started to venture forward with some menace. Campbell was looking dangerous as he tried to break through the tough Greek defence. He did manage to win a free kick right on the edge of the box, but it was wasted as the Costa Ricans didn't manage to take advantage of the set piece.
It took till the 37th minute for one of the goal keepers to be challenged by a shot on target. Greece broke well down the left side and Holebas played the ball in towards the far post. Salpingidis ran in well and got behind the defender and made good contact with the ball from inside the 6 yard box. His shot though would strike the keeper's leg and rebound out for a corner. The best chance of the half and as the whistle blew, Greece the more dominant of the two and should have been a goal ahead and Costa Rica had Navas to thank for his heroics in goals.
Halftime and the two teams find themselves with everything to play for in the second half
Greece kicked off the second half as they finished the first. Pushing Costa Rica into their own defensive half and applying the pressure. An early free kick saw Samaras rise highest and head towards goal. His shot though was straight at the keeper, as Navas made sure he held onto the ball. Greece pressed on as Costa Rica were struggling to hold possession and were reduced to trying to clear the ball long up the field. Greece were patient in their offence as they built the play up from inside their own half with some good movement off the ball and then followed through with some good passes. Then in a total shock Costa Rica would take the lead in just their first venture forward. Clever play by Campbell fed the ball wide to XX who then squared it to the top of the box, where Ruiz was left alone and he easily slotted the ball into the bottom right corner.
Ruiz scores in the 52nd minute to lift Costa Rica a step closer to the Quarter Finals
Greece 1-0 down and now needed to change their tactics and push forward with numbers. They were very lucky not to go 2-0 down after Costa Rica crossed the ball into the danger area and Torosidis handled the ball but the ref would miss it and not award Costa Rica the penalty kick. Greece needed a spark so Samaris, who was having a quiet game, was brought off for Mitroglou as Greece searched for an equalising goal. Then to give Greece an opportunity Duarte was shown the red card after earning his second yellow card and now Costa Rica had to defend their lead for the next 25 minutes with only 10 men. If the Greeks could find an equaliser and the match would go into extra time then Costa Rica could find their World Cup run coming to an end.
Duarte was shown the red card after earning his second yellow card in the 65th minute
Greece now pushed forward but credit needs to go to the Costa Ricans who defended well and kept the Greek attackers from getting that final touch onto goal. Still the Greeks pressed on as they searched for a way through the tight defensive line in front of them. Samaras tried to wiggle and weave his way through and did manage to find Holebas on the left wing. His cross though was poor and Gekas failed to find the target. A final role of the dice by the Greek manager saw Katsouranis on for Maniatis as the Greeks needed to find a goal otherwise it was back to Athens. As the minutes ticked over you had to wonder if Greece could once again find that will, that saw them see off Ivory Coast in the dying minutes of the group stage. Greece did have a few free kick opportunities but one was wasted as the ball went into row z of the stadium, while the other saw a poor header attempt go over the bar as well. 8 minutes left and Greece's goal scoring problems continued, Gekas got into a great position to score but the defender managed to get a foot to the ball and push it out of the danger area. Then Greece would strike again in the final minute of regulation time and would do it again, as they equalised after a scramble in front of the Costa Rican goal. Gekas was delivered the ball into the box and he would turn and shoot. Navas did well to block the shot, but it fell to Papastathopoulos who guided it into the empty net.
Sokratis would score another last minute goal as Greece pushed the game into Extra time
Extra time and Greece in the drivers seat to win this game and move into the Quarter Finals for the very first time. Costa Rica down to 10 men and could they hold on and try to push the game into a penalty shootout? The extra time periods saw Greece dominate the possession and keep the ball inside the Costa Rican half. The Costa Ricans did venture forward a few times and there were some dicey moments for Greece, but they managed to deal with the ball and get it clear. On the other side the Greeks did have a perfect opportunity to win the game, as they broke forward and found themselves in a five on three situation. Though Christodoulopoulos' powerful shot was well stopped by Navas. One final effort by Mitroglou should have seen Greece take the win but Navas was the Costa Rican hero once again pulling out a miraculous save. Though they pressured the defensive line Greece couldn't find a way through so a penalty shootout was destined to end this game.
The first kick was taken by Celso Borges who drilled it down the centre of the goal to give Costa Rica a 1-0 lead. Next for Greece was Mitroglou who sent the keeper the wrong way and levelled the score. Ruiz stepped up next for Costa Rica and made no mistakes as he blasted the ball into the back of the net. Christodoulopoulos was next and he too cooly finished to make it 2-2. Gonzalez was next up and he did enough to lift the ball past the diving keeper, 3-2 for Costa Rica. Holebas stepped up and with a mountain of pressure he powered the ball home, 3-3 now. Campbell was next and he too would easily finish as the keeper dove the wrong way. Gekas next up for the Greeks and he was the first to crumble as Navas guessed the right way and punched the ball clear. Umana then stepped up and would fire the ball into the goals to get Costa Rica into their first ever Quarter Finals.
Ciao for now readers