Through three knockout-stage matches in the 2014 World Cup, we already saw a couple of incredibly dramatic finishes. Well, apparently those conclusions foreshadowed what was to come when Costa Rica and Greece took the pitch on Sunday evening.
Both of these teams earned trips to the round of 16 in completely different fashions.
Costa Rica started strong with an impressive 3-1 victory over Uruguay and followed that up with another win against Italy and a draw with England to finish atop Group D. Meanwhile, Greece scored two late goals—its only scores of the group stage—in its third game against the Ivory Coast to sneak into the knockout stages.
Despite these conflicting methods of advancing in the World Cup, these two teams gave us quite a show.
Early in the game, Greece maintained the bulk of the possession time, passing nicely in its own end and midfield. However, the team seemed to be lacking a certain touch on Costa Rica's end of the pitch and didn't come away with many on-target shots.
The Greeks focused on defense against a Ticos offense that could strike at any given time, and after 20 minutes of play, ESPN FC tweeted what we were all thinking:
Late in the first half, it appeared as though Greece would come through with a score to enter the break with a one-goal lead; however, a brilliant save from Keylor Navas put an end to that.
Here's a look at Navas' effort, courtesy of Bleacher Report UK:
Navas would have even more of an impact later in the game. For now, the match would enter the break at a 0-0 draw.
It didn't take long into the second half for things to change in a big way.
In just the 48th minute, the phenomenal Bryan Ruiz struck for Costa Rica, sending a very accurate strike into the corner of the goal:
All Costa Rica had to do was keep up its stellar defensive play and hang on.
Well, in the 66th minute, Oscar Duarte made that rather difficult.
Duarte picked up his second yellow card of the match—which equated to a red card and an ejection from the match—due to this poor attempt of a challenge:
Even though Costa Rica maintained the lead, it now had its back against the wall with just 10 men on the pitch.
After several close chances from the Greeks, Costa Rica held strong. Heading into the 88th minute of the match, Greece looked completely desperate for a goal, launching shots from almost anywhere.
Then, the Greeks finally broke through.
In the 91st minute, Sokratis Papastathopoulos put himself in perfect position to find the back of the net on a rebound of a Navas save. Here's a look at the equalizer:
Amazingly enough, the Greeks did it again, scoring in the waning minutes of regulation to keep their World Cup hopes alive.
The match went into extra time, and Greece was the aggressor. With just 10 men on the pitch, all Costa Rica could do was sit back on defense and pray for penalty kicks.
This seemed like a solid move until one scary incident that led to a five-on-two situation for the Greeks in the second overtime period. Take a look, courtesy of ESPN FC:
Somehow, Greece came away empty-handed, and we moved on to penalty kicks.
After Costa Rica led Greece 4-3 over the first seven penalty-kick attempts, Theofanis Gekas stepped up for the equalizer. Well, Navas had another outcome in mind and came through with this brilliant save:
It was all up to Michael Umana to put the game away on the next shot after Navas' heroics, and he didn't hesitate, putting a perfectly placed strike into the back of the net to advance Costa Rica into the quarterfinals.
According to ESPN FC, this was a big day for CONCACAF:
Costa Rica now moves on to face the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. For the Greeks, a trip back home is in store; however, they should not hang their heads after their valiant effort during Sunday's thrilling match.
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