FIFA World Cup

Costa Rica Continue to Write World Cup History After Dogged Greek Drama Display

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2014

It was far from easy, and it wasn't the prettiest fixture of this round of 16 thus far, but Costa Rica continued to weave history with a penalty shootout win over Greece on Sunday evening.

Jorge Luis Pinto's men extended their World Cup stay following a fight against all the odds that saw them endure 54 minutes of the 120 played with 10 men, following the second-half sending-off of Oscar Duarte.

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 29: (L-R) Konstantinos Katsouranis, Giorgos Samaras, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Theofanis Gekas, Giorgos Karagounis, Konstantinos Mitroglou and Vasilis Torosidis of Greece react after being defeated by Costa Rica in a penalty shootou
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Eurosport shows the reaction of Costa Rica's players when they realised their quarter-final dream, while WhoScored.com illustrates the shootout results, with Keylor Navas' save from Theofanis Gekas providing the difference:

This wasn't the same confident Costa Rica we saw against Uruguay and Italy, their threat perhaps now more known to the World Cup opposition after the shock at how impressive they were in those outings.

However, Pinto's men were still a laudable presence for great stretches, the counter-attacking tactics that have got them this far still impressing at the right times.

"Last night, I dreamed this," said Michael Umana, who converted Costa Rica's fifth and final penalty in the shootout, per CNN. "It seems untrue. I was relaxed because I dreamed it. I dreamed it but I didn't tell anyone."

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 29:  Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Costa Rica and Greece at Arena Pernambuco on June 29, 2014 in Recife, Brazil.  (Photo by Ian Walto
Ian Walton/Getty Images

And how fitting that captain Bryan Ruiz scored Costa Rica's 52nd-minute opener in what was at times a drab, mistake-ridden affair.

The Fulham playmaker side-footed home from outside the area on the type of counter-strike that's been so inherent to this team's success in Brazil.

His time in England hasn't been as glamorous as some may have foretold upon his 2011 move from FC Twente, but Ruiz has a habit of turning it up when playing for the national team, also netting the 1-0 winner against Italy during the group stage.

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 29: Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica scores his team's first goal past Orestis Karnezis of Greece during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Costa Rica and Greece at Arena Pernambuco on June 29, 2014 in Recife, Brazil.
Ian Walton/Getty Images

It's oh-so suitable for what this tournament means to Costa Rica, too, a team formed by a group of players who are far from the most elite at this competition, but when coupled together as a unit have shown a potential to be as stubborn as any other outfit.

A 90th-minute equaliser from Sokratis Papastathopoulos got the Greeks back into this fixture, where their lifeline was once again extended under excruciatingly tense circumstances.

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 29:  (L-R) Bryan Ruiz, Jose Miguel Cubero,Randall Brenes,Joel Campbell, Johnny Acosta,Michael Umana,Giancarlo Gonzalez and Junior Diaz of Costa Rica look on during a penalty shootout during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Despite Greece's lowly standing in comparison to the other giants in the round of 16, Costa Rica are fully deserving of any praise that comes their way after this result.

Before Duarte's red card, the Central Americans were enjoying a greater deal of possession, and their five men at the back soaked up pressure with aplomb for the most part, limiting the opposition to half chances and long-range efforts.

But let that not paper over the team's inadequacies that were clear for all to see. They had the lesser share of attacking chances in the first half, and the Dutch will be far less sympathetic when it comes to wasting chances in front of goal.

Right-back Cristian Gamboa failed to cope with the surging runs of Greece's Jose Holebas, who drew the foul that led to Duarte being sent for an early shower.

Those challenges aren't set to let up, either, with Arjen Robben one of the wide talents poised to test the defensively stacked Costa Rica, who must go into their quarter-final with more incentive and initiative coming forward.

Granted, Duarte's red card changed everything on Sunday, and with Pinto choosing to persevere with a five-man defence, it meant an undermanned Costa Rican midfield struggled severely in the possession statistics.

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 29:  Head coach Jorge Luis Pinto of Costa Rica looks on prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Costa Rica and Greece at Arena Pernambuco on June 29, 2014 in Recife, Brazil.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Image
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Sokratis' was also the first goal that Costa Rica have conceded from open play at this World Cup, temporarily putting to shame all of the fine work that goalkeeper Navas had managed in his duties.

But as B/R contributor Sam Tighe noted, that couldn't tarnish Navas' impressive performance overall in Brazil:

The fact that it has taken so long for an opponent to score in that manner is indicative of what Costa Rica bring to the table. They've already beaten big competition in the past fortnight, but are they capable of doing so again on Saturday?

All that being said, the nation will revel in their success, and the impending threat of the Netherlands should deservedly be put to the back of their minds for now. It should be replaced by a unique enjoyment at having advanced to the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

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