Costa Rica Defy Odds

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 29th 2014)

Making History

Levanteʼs Keylor Navas Gamboa twice made three crucial saves to keep Jorge Pinto Alfanadorʼs Costa Rica in the match and one to bring them to the brink of victory. The match tied at 1-1 after extra time – with an assist from FCKʼs Christian Bolaños Navarro Fulhamʼs Bryan Ruiz González gave Costa Rica a 51st minute lead that lasted 40 minutes before Borussia Dortmundʼs Sokratis Papastathopoulos equalised in added time – penalties were required.

Both Navas and Greek keeper Orestis Karnezis were powerless to prevent the first three penalties each being scored by Celso Borges, Ruiz and Giancarlo González for Costa Rica and matched by Kostas Mitroglou, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and José Holebas. A tired Joel Campbell Samuels scored Costa Ricaʼs fourth, putting immense pressure on veteran striker Theofanis Gekas.

Navas guessed correctly for the only save of the shoot-out. That left Michael Umaña with the chance to surpass the class of 1990 and make new history. He did so to set up a quarter-final against the Netherlands.

Against Type

Both Costa Rica and Greece were forced by necessity to play against type. Greece were more attacking than usual, but still didnʼt totally abandon the habits that had served so well. Portuguese coach Fernando Santos was sent to the stands before the penalty shoot-out. It was his last match in charge of the Greeks.

Whatever caused his dismissal from pitch-side, his opposite number had greater cause for consent as despite being well positioned Australian referee Ben Williams missed a clear penalty when Vasilis Torosidos handled to prevent Bolaños having the opportunity to score while shaping to shoot – another case for using technology. That came a couple of minutes after Costa Rica had taken the lead, albeit against the run of play.

Greece had the best chance of the first half with less than ten minutes of the first half remaining. The left wing-back José Holebas delivered an enticing cross to the back post to PAOKʼs Dimitrios Salpingidis, whose shot was well saved by Navas. Ten minutes after taking the lead Óscar Duarte Gaitán received a yellow card for tripping Holebas – his second. The Costa Ricans tired quickly.

Navas saved well twice to deny Mitroglou before and after Papastathopoulosʼ equaliser. During Extra time the ten men of Costa Rica defended manfully. Lazoros Christodoulopoulos spurned the best opportunity a five against two attack by shooting straight at Navas. The unfortunate Mitroglu was denied once more by Navasʼ leg. Penalties were required and Pintoʼs men scored all five to go through to the quarter-final to play the Dutch. They will be underdogs again, but have acquired an impressive list of conquests already. Nothing will suit them better than being under-estimated again.

 

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