world cup 2014

Costa Rica to play Greece

Many fans and experts didn’t think these two sides would make it out of the group stage of the World Cup 2014, but they’re still going strong. Costa Rica has been the surprise of the tournament so far. They competed in Group D along with former World Cup champions England, Italy, and Uruguay with most people giving them no chance whatsoever.

However, the small Central American country beat Uruguay 3-1 to kick off their tournament and then disposed of another multiple World Cup winner in Italy by a 1-0 score and wrapped up the round-robin stage with a 0-0 draw against England. Costa Rica won the group with seven points and went unbeaten. Greece played in Group C with Japan, Ivory Coast, and Colombia. They were spanked 3-0 in their opener by the Colombians and failed to score again in their next game, a 0-0 draw with Japan. However, a late and controversial penalty kick against Ivory Coast in their group finale gave them a 2-1 win and second place in the group with four points.

The last time Costa Rica made it this far in a World Cup was back in 1990 while Greece has never made it out of the group stage. One thing is guaranteed and that’s the fact that one of these countries will reach the quarterfinal stage for the first time in their history. But perhaps Costa Rica shouldn’t be shocking fans during the tournament since they played extremely well in the CONCACAF region qualifying stages by allowing just seven goals against in 10 games. They’ve allowed just one goal against in the World Cup and that came on a penalty kick by Uruguay. There’s no doubt that goalkeeper Keylor Navas is one of their key players.

Ironically, he may not be tested too often by Greece since the European nation is one of the most offensively-challenged teams in the event with just two goals in their first three games. One of these was a penalty kick and they were shut out the other two matches. Costa Rica should attack from the kickoff to keep the Greeks pinned in their own end. Grabbing a lead against their opponents could be a huge key to victory in this encounter.

Costa Rica has some good young attackers in Joel Campbell, Christian Bolanos, and Bryan Ruiz and they all get good support from the midfield and wings. Costa Rica pressed the issue against Uruguay and Italy and was successful. However, against England they sat back and couldn’t create much in the way of scoring chances. Greece’s main scoring threat is the tall and lanky Giorgos Samaras, but he’s scored just nine goals in 77 appearances with his homeland. That tells fans all they need to know about the team’s pea-shooter attack. But with this being a must-win situation we may see Greece put a little more effort into their offensive game instead of just waiting to pounce on the counter attack.

Defensively, Greece is usually quite tough to break down, but Colombia had no problem in doing it when they beat them 3-0 in their opener. They tightened things up after that though and didn’t allow a goal against Japan even though they were down to 10 men and let just one in against Ivory Coast. The Greeks will have captain Kostas Katsouranis in the lineup after sitting out a game suspension due to his red card against Japan, but the status of goaltender Orestis Karnezis and midfielder Panagiotis Kone won’t be known until game time. Kone is a decent attacker, but his replacement Andreas Samaris scored against Ivory Coast.