Keylor Navas and Michael Umana were the heroes as 10-man Costa Rica defeated Greece 5-3 in a penalty shootout to advance to the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals in a dramatic round-of-16 match on Sunday at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil.
Bryan Ruiz put Costa Rica ahead in the 52nd minute, but the Ticos were unable to hold out with 10 men after Oscar Duarte was sent off midway through the second half for his second bookable offence. With moments left in stoppage time, Sokratis Papastathopoulos grabbed a dramatic equaliser for Greece, sending the match to extra time with the score level at 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Neither team scored in extra time, and in the shootout, both teams converted their first three attempts before Joel Campbell put Costa Rica ahead 4-3. Navas then saved against Theofanis Gekas, setting the stage for Umana to slam in the decisive spot-kick.
With the win, Costa Rica continued their unlikely run in Brazil, advancing to the quarter-finals for the first time in four World Cup appearances. Drawn into a group with former champions Uruguay, Italy and England, the Ticos were given little chance to advance to the knockout stages. Now, Jorge Luis Pinto's side are among the last eight and will take on the Netherlands on Saturday in Salvador.
Once there, both teams likely will feel the effects of fatigue. While Costa Rica played 120 minutes against Greece, the Dutch were pushed to the limit by Mexico in their round-of-16 match, enduring scorching conditions in Fortaleza on the way to a comeback victory.
With both Costa Rica and Greece defending well early, the first half passed with few chances. Costa Rica's Christian Bolanos blasted over from a tight angle in the eighth minute, and Greece's Lazaros Christodoulopoulos dragged a shot wide four minutes later.
The best chance of the half came in the 37th minute as Greece's Jose Holebas picked out Dimitrios Salpingidis with a curling cross from the left. Salpingidis directed a volley on target, but Navas saved with his trailing leg to keep the match scoreless at half-time.
Greece created the first chance of the second half, Georgios Samaras heading straight at Navas from a Holebas free-kick in the 47th minute. Five minutes later, though, Costa Rica took the lead after the vaunted Greek defence momentarily lost concentration.
Bolanos set up the chance, rolling a cross from the left flank to an unmarked Ruiz at the edge of the box. With his first touch, Ruiz scuffed a slow-moving—but well-placed—shot that sneaked into the bottom corner past a motionless Orestis Karnezis.
Leading 1-0, Costa Rica quickly went searching for more. Moments after the goal, the Central American side appealed for a penalty after Vasilis Torosidis cleared a high ball into Greece's box with an outstretched fist. Then, in the 54th minute, Bolanos had a shot blocked on the left side of the box following fine interplay with Celso Borges.
Greece received a lifeline in the 66th minute as Duarte, who had been booked late in the first half, received his marching orders for his second yellow card following a foul on Holebas.
Armed with a numerical advantage for the final 24 minutes, Greece quickly began pushing for an equaliser. Samaras flicked a header off target in the 69th minute, and Giorgos Karagounis skied a free-kick well off target 11 minutes later.
Christodoulopoulos created another moment of danger in the 88th minute, wriggling past Junior Diaz down Costa Rica's left flank before crossing dangerously into the middle. Costa Rica were exposed, but the ball bounced off Kostas Mitroglou and into Navas' arms.
It turned out to be only a brief let-off for Costa Rica, though. In the first minute of stoppage time, Greece once again produced a moment of late magic to pull level.
Papastathopoulos both started and finished the goal, first setting up Gekas, whose initial shot was saved by Navas. The rebound fell back to Papastathopoulos, who bounced his finish in past Navas for a dramatic equaliser.
The Greeks almost grabbed a late winner as well, but Navas was able to tip over Mitroglou's flicked header in the third minute of stoppage time. Level at 1-1 after 90 minutes, the match went to extra time.
After earning new life with the late equaliser, Greece posed the bigger threat in the first half of extra time. Gekas headed wide in the 94th minute from Mitroglou's pass, and Konstantinos Katsouranis had a shot blocked from a tight angle seven minutes later.
Costa Rica then had a sight of goal in the 106th minute, substitute Randall Brenes shooting high and wide of the top corner. Greece nearly caught the Ticos on the counter seven minutes later, but the move took too long to develop and Christodoulopoulos' shot was saved comfortably by Navas.
With the match headed for penalties, Greece came agonisingly close to the winner in the closing moments of extra time. Gekas created the chance with a headed pass into the path of Mitroglou on the right, but Navas produced yet another save to deflect Mitroglou's volleyed attempt wide of the goal.
It was the game's last big chance, and in the penalty shootout, the Greeks once again found it too difficult to beat the impressive Navas.
|Costa Rica Player Ratings|
|Jose Cubero (for Tejeda, 66')||N/A||6|
|Johnny Acosta (for Gamboa, 77')||N/A||6.5|
|Randall Brenes (for Bolanos, 83')||N/A||6.5|
|Greece Player Ratings|
|Kostas Mitroglou (for Samaris, 58')||N/A||6.5|
|Theofanis Gekas (for Salpingidis, 69')||N/A||6.5|
|Konstantinos Katsouranis (for Maniatis, 78')||N/A||6|
After the game, Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said (via Football Italia):
This group is immense. The work, sacrifice and execution were sensational. We deserved this for the sacrifice we made.
Justice was served. I had said it was not going to be easy against Greece. We are so happy. The players, manager, fans and you, the media—all those who supported us are so happy.
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