ROUND OF 16
COSTA RICA vs. GREECE
SUNDAY 29TH JUNE – RECIFE
It’s time for one of the most unlikely Round-of-16 match-ups in this year’s World Cup, where awkwardly, no one expected both teams to make it out of their groups.
Costa Rica’s journey has to be the most shocking of them all. Drawn in the ‘group of death’, they were never given a chance against Uruguay, England and Italy; yet they held their own and did not lose a single game against their opponents in that order. Most surprisingly, they even managed to finish first and avoid a clash with Colombia in the next round – who we now know are not to be played with having convincingly beaten Uruguay yesterday. In fact, the ‘minnows’ of this World Cup have gained a lot of fans around the world due to the impressive feat.
While it may be rather easy to look at the matches and single out players like Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell who lead the frontline of the Costa Rica attack, the team work and spirit seems to be the true reason for their success thus far. Playing in an adventurous 3-5-2 formation, they attack and defend as a unit with the wingbacks dropping back and bombing forward with great discipline. It can be said that the Costa Ricans have beaten much tougher opponents then their next, Greece; as they are the easiest team to play of the teams that have qualified. Yet, you can be sure that the North Americans are not taking anything for granted. “To have qualified top of the group makes us proud. It gives us great satisfaction as a group”, said defender Michael Umana. “We have grown as a team although we have always been characterized by strong and silent work”.
Pulling their own surprises, the Greeks were set to pack their bags when they did not manage to get a single win in their first two matches, but such has been the unpredictability of this World Cup – as they pulled off a 2-1 win against Ivory Coast in the final match of the group to sneak in behind Colombia albeit controversial circumstances. Striker Georgios Samaras appeared to trip himself in the penalty area when the referee pointed to the spot – resulting in the goal that sent them through with just two goals to their name in the tournament so far. Similarly, in 2004, they managed to pull a surprise of their own when they played badly right up to the final; eventually winning it against Portugal.
Costa Rica coach, Jorge Luis Pinto will be expected to retain his line-up from the Italy game, as there have not been any major concerns. Greece on the other hand, might make significant changes with goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis and captain Kostas Katsouranis back from injury and suspension respectively. Although not everything is good news as Greek boss Fernando Santos may be forced into starting midfielder Andreas Samaris in place of the injured Panagotis Kone, who was substituted early in the Ivory Coast match.
TEAM SHEET: PROBABLE LINEUPS
COSTA RICA: Keylor Navas, Junior Diaz, Michael Umana, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Oscar Duarte, Cristian Gamboa, Chrsitian Bolanos, Celso Borges, Yeltsin Tejeda, Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell
GREECE: Orestis Karnezis, Jose Holebas, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Kostas Manolas, Vasilis Torosidis, Andreas Samaris, Giorgios Karagounis, Giannis Maniatis, Lazaros Christodoupoulos, Georgios Samaras, Dimitris Salpingidis
LATEST ODDS AT BETVICTOR
Click on Oswald’s name above to follow him on Twitter