The fourth match of the Knockout Stages would be surprise group toppers from the Group of Death, Costa Rica lining up against former European champions Greece. There were quite a few surprises this time around but many onlookers feel that Costa Rica have had the most telling impact so far, having outplayed heavyweights Italy, England and Uruguay to seal a place in the final 16. And having said that, let us take a look at the Round of 16 match between first timers, Costa Rica and Greece.
Possibly the team of the tournament, Costa Rica have had a roller coaster ride. Placed in the ‘Group of Death’ alongside former champions Uruguay, Italy and perennial underachievers, England. Joel Campbell, Keylor Nevas and Bryan Ruiz have been the linchpins of the team and they would surely play a big part in this match. Expect Christian Bolanos to play a part as well.
Along with their potent attack, they have a strong back four and a goal keeper who has been among the best this tournament so far, the other being Ochoa. They’ve conceded just once and like their opponents Greece, they’re a tight defending unit.
As the Costa Rican defender Michael Umana perfectly put it, “We were the Cinderella and now we are the favourites. That’s respect and we earned it“. That’s what the Ticos have earned and I’m sure they would be high on confidence going into this match.
While many feel that the Greece’s ‘golden generation’ has already passed, fans and players alike hope that fairytale stories do happen. After a disastrous start to the World Cup, the Galanolefki scraped through to the Knockout stages courtesy a win over Ivory Coast.
Traditionally, the Piratiko are known to have a strong defence and that is not going to change. Players like Borussia Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Olympiakos’ Kostas Manolas who has had a brilliant season would be the rock of the defence while Jose Holebas and Giannis Maniatis would be the full backs in a back four that would be tough to crack.
A side wins only if they put the ball into their opposition’s net and Greece do have a few players who can do that. Kostas Mitroglou is undoubtedly their main threat in front of goal and with wily customer Georgios Samaras, they can be lethal against a team which underestimates them.
And I did mention the ‘golden generation’ of Greece, right? The Euro win of 2004 happened a decade ago but there are still two players from their historic triumph in this present squad; Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis will be lending their invaluable experience to the younger crop of players. These two marshall the Greek midfield and they’re two players who anyone shouldn’t think of lightly.
Players who might decide the match:
1. Joel Campbell
His never say die attitude coupled with his dribbles make him a threat on any given day. He dazzles with the ball and his nimble footed tricks are a handful for any defender. Along with Bryan Ruiz, they form a lethal duo. Campbell can play anywhere from a striker to a left or a right midfielder and it’s his versatility that makes him the kind of player he is. He has a tremendous work rate and that’s why Joel Campbell might be the decisive factor for this match.
2. Kostas Mitroglou
The Greek striker has been in spectacular form this past year as he spearheaded Olympiakos to the Champions League and later tried his best but fate had other plans as his new club Fulham, got relegated. His fierce pace and the ability to create something out of nothing is what makes him such a big threat for the Costa Ricans. Georgios Samaras provides the perfect foil for him and they would have to play a big part if Greece were to qualify.
Path to the Round of 16:
vs Uruguay 3-1
vs Italy 1-0
vs England 0-0
vs Columbia 0-3
vs Japan 0-0
vs Ivory Coast 2-1
Costa Rica: Jorge Luis Pinto (Colombia)
Greece: Fernando Santos (Portugal)
Venue: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Referee: Benjamin Williams (Australia)
- It’s the first time Greece are going into the Knockout stages.
- This will be the first ever meeting between Costa Rica and Greece.
- Greece’s seven wins at major tournaments have never been by more than one clear goal (four 1-0 and three 2-1 wins).
- Greece have only won two of their nine World Cup games, both against African sides (v Nigeria in 2010 & Ivory Coast in 2014)
- Costa Rica are yet to concede a goal from open play at this World Cup, the only one they have let in being Edinson Cavani’s penalty.
- None of Costa Rica’s four goals at this World Cup have been scored before the 44th minute
- Meanwhile, each of Greece’s four goals in World Cup history have been scored from the 42nd minute onwards.
Both the teams would be shy to attack all the time but I fancy the Costa Ricans on this one as they have a more consistent team and moreover, they have the X Factor in the form of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell.
Final score: Costa Rica 2-0 Greece