Costa Rica vs. Greece: Tactical Preview of World Cup Round-of-16 Match

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 29, 2014

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 24: Giorgos Samaras of Greece celebrates scoring his team's second goal on a penalty kick with Theofanis Gekas (C) during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C match between Greece and the Ivory Coast at Castelao on June 24, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The FIFA World Cup 2014 knockout stages have arrived, with 16 teams exiting at the group stage and the rest left to fight it out for the ultimate prize.

Here we analyse Costa Rica vs. Greece: a game that will attract a lot of moans and groans from floating voters, but both have earned the right to play at this stage all the same.


Costa Rica

Costa Rica, winners of Group D despite landing alongside Italy, England and Uruguay, are the tournament's fairy-tale story so far.


The 3-5-2 formation Luis Pinto fields is very solid, great in its own third and utilises its attacking options well. Joel Campbell has been a saviour in the absence of the injured Alvaro Saborio, Celso Borges has linked the lines superbly and Giancarlo Gonzalez leads a mean line.

Costa Ricans aren't getting too excited, merely enjoying the ride, but Greece are the easiest draw possible and a quarterfinal spot is very possible. Ask the players, though, and they'll tell you the opposite:

"We came here as a dark horse. We surprised the world," Ticos' Michael Barrantes told the Associated Press (h/t USA Today). "We're not favourites."



Greece looked dead and buried after a loss and a goalless draw with Japan, but the fight and spirit inside Fernando Santos' camp is admirable.


In Euro 2012, they managed to knock Russia out and advance to the quarterfinals despite playing poorly up until the final group game, and two years on, they've managed the same feat against Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast.

They did so despite sustaining key casualties, with Panagiotis Kone and Orestis Karnezis now likely out of the round-of-16 matchup. Kone, in particular, is a big loss to what little attacking momentum this side has.

"We will attack as much as possible," Santos promised reporters prior to the game, via USA Today. Brazil exhales with relief.


2 Tactical Clashes

1. Punishing the High Line

Costa Rica were as lucky as they were efficient during the group stages. It's a fact that doesn't fall in line with the fairy-tale agenda of the story, but it's true all the same.

Italy and England should have punished their high defensive line. Had Daniel Sturridge not had an off-day and had any of the Azzurri's XI been able to stay onside, they would have.

Greece have a few speedsters who can run the channels, but do they have the player who can play the right ball through now that Kone is out?

Costa Rica excel digging out clearances, but catch them high up and they'll suffer.
Costa Rica excel digging out clearances, but catch them high up and they'll


2. Cristian Gamboa vs. Jose Holebas

Greece's victory over Ivory Coast allowed us to see Jose Holebas' true form: a blisteringly pacey, direct attacking option who's a killer on the counter-attack

He's suspect defensively, and he was the weak link Juan Cuadrado targeted during Colombia's win over the Piratiko in the first game, making his tussle with right-wing-back Gamboa a potential crowd-pleaser.

Both will attempt to "own" their effective flank, and the winner will very likely serve as an important platform for their respective teams' attacks.


Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.