Costa Rica 1-1 Greece (Costa Rica win 5-3 on penalties)
29 June 2014
Arena Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil
World Cup Round of 16
Scorers: Ruiz (Costa Rica), Papastathopoulos (Greece)
UFWC champions Costa Rica squeezed past Greece into the World Cup quarter finals after a penalty shoot-out settled this long, draining match. Greece had grabbed an injury time equaliser to put the match into extra time, with Costa Rica reduced to ten men. But goalkeeper Keylor Navas ended up being the hero for Los Ticos, saving brilliantly at the end of extra time, them saving the decisive penalty in the shoot-out to put his team through.
Few pundits had reckoned on either side reaching the knock-out stages, never mind both. But Costa Rica topped group D, ahead of Uruguay, and with Italy and England eliminated. And Greece qualified from group C, behind Colombia but ahead of Ivory Coast and Japan. This match was the first Costa Rica and Greece have ever played against each other in senior competition.
As expected, Costa Rica brought back Michael Umana and Christian Bolanos, after the pair were rested against England. Coach Jorge Luis Pinto persevered with his fruitful 5-4-1 formation, which can fluidly switch to 3-5-1-1, with the full-backs pushing up the wing, and captain Bryan Ruiz stepping up to play off lone striker Joel Campbell.
Greece made one change from the side that beat Ivory Coast, bringing in Andreas Samiris for the injured Panagiotis Kone. Georgios Samaras scored the penalty that put his side into the round of 16. It was Samaras’s only shot on target during the entire tournament. Nevertheless, he led the Greek line, at the head of a 4-3-2-1 formation, with Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Dimitris Salpingidis supporting from the wings, and captain Giorgos Karagounis sitting deep to protect the back four.
The first half was pretty forgettable, offering little hint of the drama to come, as both sides nullified each other, and half-chances were at a premium. The best chance fell to Salpingidis, but his volley hit the outstretched leg of Navas and flew wide. The deadlock was broken in the 52nd minute, when Junior Diaz found Ruiz inside the D. The Costa Rica captain looked to miss-hit his shot, but managed to side-foot it into the far corner of the net.
The game really changed in the 65th minute, when Costa Rica were reduced to ten men, with Oscar Duarte sent off for a second bookable offence. Greece began to exploit the extra space, and brought on strikers Konstantinos Mitroglou and Theofanis Gekas, plus Kostas Katsouranis. But it was centre-half Sokratis Papastathopoulos who grabbed the equaliser, in the 91st minute, seizing his chance to drive the ball over keeper Navas and into the net. 1-1, and the game went into extra time.
Ten-man Costa Rica were by now visibly exhausted, but somehow managed to keep the Greeks at bay throughout the extra 30 minutes. Mitroglou was denied by Navas at the death, but ultimately neither side could create a goal, so the match would be decided by a penalty shoot-out. And it was an impressive display of penalty-taking, with the first seven takers all scoring their kicks. Then up stepped the veteran Gekas, only to see his kick saved by the brilliant Navas. Michael Umana scored for Costa Rica, and it was all over, 5-3 to the UFWC champions.
This was Costa Rica’s eighth UFWC title match win, and it moves then up to 22nd in the all-time rankings. They will now play the Netherlands in the World Cup quarter finals on Saturday, 5 July.
The Netherlands were actually UFWC champions throughout the last World Cup tournament, but lost the title to Spain in the final at South Africa 2010. At Brazil 2014, they’ve beaten Spain, Chile and Australia to top group B, and then squeezed past Mexico in the round of 16 courtesy of an injury time penalty converted by Klaas Jan Huntelaar. The Dutch are ranked 4th in the UFWC’s all-time rankings. Argentina are the only side remaining in the World Cup with a higher UFWC ranking.
18% of respondents to our recent poll think the Netherlands will end this World Cup tournament as the ‘Undisputed Football World Champions‘, unifying the official and unofficial titles. The Dutch are in second place behind Germany, with 25% of the vote. Brazil are in third with 17%, and Argentina fourth with 16%. 3% of respondents think Costa Rica can go all the way. Full poll results are here.
You can find out everything you need to know about the UFWC in our official handbook, Unofficial Football World Champions, which contains a complete history of the unofficial competition. The 2014 edition, updated for the World Cup, is out now.