10-man Costa Rica show resilience and grit to win over Greece and progress through to the quarter-final of the World Cup for the first time in their history.
Few would have envisaged that Costa Rica and Greece will face each other in the round of 16 at the World Cup, but both these teams defied odds to set-up this clash. Costa Rica displayed tremendous grit and fight after they went down to 10 men and take the game of penalties, where Keylor Navas’ heroics booked their place in the next round.
Costa Rica were the favourites on paper coming into this fixture, especially after their wonderful performances in the group of death, and Jorge Luis Pinto’s men made a bright start to the game in attack. But they had to wait till the second half to finally take the lead when Bryan Ruiz, who continued his brilliant form in this tournament, scored with a delightful finish from outside the box.
But soon after taking the lead, Costa Rica went a man down when Oscar Duarte picked up his second yellow card of the match after a clumsy tackle on Jose Holebas. This provided Greece with a massive advantage as they pushed forward for an equalizer. Costa Rica showed resilience though and held off the European nation for most of the second half, while Keylor Navas produced some good saves in goal.
But the Greeks eventually broke through in the dying moments of the game when Sokratis Papastathopoulous scored in the 90th minute after Navas saved an initial effort from Theofanis Gekas. This sent the match into extra-time and eventually to penalties. Both the teams looked calm and composed while taking the spot kicks, that is until Theofanis Gekas stepped up. Navas made a brilliant save diving to his right to provide Costa Rica with an advantage. Experienced defender Michael Umana stepped up for Costa Rica to score the penalty and put them through to the last eight and set-up a clash with Netherlands.
Jorge Luis Pinto was delighted with his historic win and praised his team for maintaining their composure during the shoot-out.
“This is a big, big result. Words can’t describe how I feel right now. It’s never easy playing with ten men, and even less so against opponents like that in a World Cup match. We looked secure throughout the game, and we were full of confidence in the shoot-out, and that goes for the goalkeeper, who was amazing, and the penalty takers, who were just perfect. I’ll say it again – we’re delighted and we’d like to dedicate this win to all the people of Costa Rica. We respect the Netherlands, just as we respect all our rivals, but the story goes on and we’re hungry for more.” – The Costa Rica manager said after the match.