Costa Rica Advances
Recife, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Costa Rica's magical World Cup journey continued in dramatic fashion on Sunday as Los Ticos advanced to their first- ever quarterfinals after knocking off Greece, 5-3, on penalty kicks after the sides played to a 1-1 draw after extra time at the Arena Pernambuco.
Costa Rica entered the tournament pegged as the consensus choice to finish at the bottom of Group D, but Jorge Luis Pinto's men proved their mettle with impressive wins over Uruguay and Italy in the group stages.
Sunday's match represented a most unlikely round-of-16 match as Greece finished as runners up in Group C despite scoring just two goals during their group campaign.
Bryan Ruiz opened the scoring for Costa Rica in the 52nd minute and it looked like it would be enough to see Costa Rica through, but Sokratis Papastathopoulos equalized at the death to send the match to extra time.
Both teams squandered chances in extra time to force penalties. In the shootout, each side converted its first three attempts before Joel Campbell scored Costa Rica's fourth try.
The difference came when Theofanis Gekas' strike was parried away by Ticos goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Sensing his opportunity, Michael Umana stepped up with the chance to win it and fired into the top left corner past Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis to set up a quarterfinal matchup against the Netherlands next Saturday.
"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," Pinto said. "We looked secure throughout the game, and we were full of confidence in the shootout, 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."
Costa Rica had the better of the play and more of the ball in the early stages and created the first quality scoring chance eight minutes in when Ruiz did well to find an open Christian Bolanos on the left wing, but the strike flew well over the crossbar.
Greece's best opportunity of the first half materialized in the 37th minute when Jose Holebas whipped a cross into the area with pace that was turned on goal by Celtic man Georgios Samaras, but Navas was in position to make the save.
Los Ticos broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second half. Bolanos got the scoring play started as he got down the left flank and sent a square pass back to Ruiz, who sent a perfectly-placed strike into the bottom right corner from the top of the area for his second goal of the tournament.
The momentum of the match swung in favor of Greece in the 66th minute when Costa Rica defender Oscar Duarte was shown a second yellow card and sent off by referee Ben Williams for a hard challenge on Holebas.
Playing with the extra man, Greece rarely made the most of its opportunity, but they had a prime chance to find an equalizer in the 79th minute as Giorgos Karagounis lined up a free kick from just outside the box, but blasted it well over the bar.
It could have been a pivotal miss, but Fernando Santos' side found its equalizer in the dying seconds when a long free kick into the box fell to Gekas, who had a good go at goal. Navas did well to parry it away, but the rebound fell to Sokratis, who fired home with authority to send the match into extra time.
In extra time, the Greeks had the better of the play and a prime opportunity for a potential winner in the 113th minute when Sokratis came barreling down the center of the pitch leading a 5-on-2 counter-attack.
But the defender chose to lay it off on the right for Karagounis, who was at a sharp angle when he received the ball, making the save rather easy for Navas.
Like regulation, the Greeks had one final chance in the final seconds of extra time as another long ball into the area fell to substitute Kostas Mitroglou in front of goal, but he pulled his attempt wide of the far post.
Greece would ultimately pay for its missed opportunities during the run of play as Umana made sure the Greeks' World Cup adventure came to an end.
"I don't like talking about good luck or bad luck. Someone has to be lucky and tonight it was them, and I congratulate them for that," Santos said. "I think Costa Rica were the better side in the opening 15 minutes, but then we came back into it. We had to go and take more risks after the goal, but they defended well and tried to hit us on the counter. In the end, though, we managed to take the game into extra time, when we put pressure on them but weren't sharp enough, which is perfectly understandable when you're tired and tense. Navas was brilliant. Without him, the outcome would have been different."