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Costa Rica into World Cup quarterfinals

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Sunday, in Recife, Brazil, the Costa Rican National Football Team won its quarterfinals berth twice in its match against Greece by an eventual 5-4 penalty shootout after a 1-1 score line was maintained after extra time.

The Ticos had the 1-0 advantage late into the second half, and despite playing with 10 men since the 66th minute, seemed poised to progress, when Sokratis Papastathopoulos scored on a rebound in the Costa Rican box at the 91st minute, to send the game into extra time.

The game was similar to the Mexico-Netherlands match in that the Greeks were managing the game and the Central Americans were playing it. Costa Rica controlled possession and chances and yet managed to create precious few chances in the first half to a few on counters for the Greeks.

The second half opened with a pretty goal by Bryan Ruiz at the 51st minute when a flowing offensive move saw two Costa Rican’s rush into the box anticipating a cross while Ruiz stayed at the half moon and called for the ball. The perfectly weighted pass from Christian Bolanos found Ruiz open and he simply needed to redirect the pass toward the goal. When the ball arrived and was redirected, Greek goalkeeper, Orestis Karmesis, was frozen by its deftness.

The game then settled into a fifteen minute span where the Greeks tried to attack and only managed to do so haltingly. The Costa Ricans, now counterattacking where not much better at their role reversal. Yet both teams made chances, saved from each other’s best attacks and kept the score line intact.

Then, inexplicably, on a play by the sideline Costa Rican defender Oscar Duarte committed a clear yellow card foul when he had already picked up a yellow previously. The ensuing red card meant the Greeks would have 25 minutes to obtain a tie with a man advantage. The call was the right one by the ref, who otherwise was simply not the right person to officiate such a game as he missed much more than he got right.

With such a gift the Greeks went all out on offense. But the Costa Ricans were not done giving the game away. One of the best passing teams of the cup, one of the teams that reminded fans of the tiki-taka Spanish style, decided the best way to defend being a man down was by booming the ball down the field to the lone Joel Campbell, who was marked by three defenders. Then, when the Greeks inevitably recovered the ball, the Ticos allowed the Greeks to pepper Keylor Navas’ box with cross after cross.

It was no surprise then when one of those many crosses was not cleared and the bobbling ball was found by Papastathopoulos who obligingly tied the game.

The two periods of extra time were barely survived by the Costa Ricans who continued their mentioned strategy and allowed the Greeks to dictate all that occurred for thirty minutes. But survive the Ticos did.

The shootout seemed a waiting game. Each side was taking great shots leaving the keepers out of the discussion. That was the case until Theofanis Gekas came up and was seen to be so nervous he could not concentrate on the job at hand. He came up and took a decent shot, but did so without confidence or conviction, while Navas guessed correctly, dove to his right and with his right arm outstretched, saved the shot. That left the score 4-3 to Costa Rica with Michael Umana taking the last shot. He converted for the Ticos’ victory, 5-3, with no need for Greece to take their last shot. Costa Rica made history by progressing, and their fans were thrilled, once they recovered from the shock of the shootout.

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