Costa Rica v Greece – Surprise Package Face-OffStats
Costa Rica v Greece
Few would have predicted a second round meeting between Greece and Costa Rica, but that’s how it’s panned out as two of the tournament’s surprise packages go head to head.
Greece had the most dramatic route to the last 16 of any side when Georgios Samaras’ penalty in injury time in their final group game against Ivory Coast saw them pip their opponents to second place in Group C.
Substitute Andreas Samaris had given the Euro 2004 winners a first half lead but the Greeks looked to be going home after Wilfried Bony struck an equaliser which would have seen the Ivorians reach the knockout rounds for the first time in their history until Samaras kept ice-cool under enormous pressure to nick it for Greece at the death and send them through in remarkable fashion.
Their qualification was all the more surprising following a dreadful start to the tournament when they were thumped 3-0 by group heavyweights Colombia in their opening game and looked to be well off the pace. Fernando Santos’ side were then dogged as they held on for a dour scoreless draw against Japan despite being down to ten men for the entire second half to leave them needing a win and a favour from Colombia in the last round of fixtures and both came to pass.
A 0-0 draw with England in Costa Rica’s final Group C match saw the team most would have viewed as the whipping boys of that section finish top of the pile after going unbeaten for three games.
They were most impressive in their tournament opener against Uruguay as they completed a fantastic turnaround in the second half to come back from a goal down and deservedly won 3-1, the Latin Americans followed that up with a fine 1-0 win over Italy thanks to Bryan Ruiz’s second half header to reach the knockout rounds with a game to spare. A point against Roy Hodgson’s hugely disappointing outfit then confirmed they would finish as group winners in what has already been a hugely successful showing at the finals.
First choice Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis is expected to miss out with the back problem which saw him taken off before half-time with Panagiotis Glykos expected to take his place between the posts as he did against Ivory Coast.
Panagiotis Kone is also likely to be sidelined with the hamstring injury which saw him replaced by Samiris in the first 15 minutes of their final group game. Veteran midfielder Kostas Karagounis is available again after serving a one-match ban following his red card against Japan.
The Costa Ricans have no new injuries or suspensions to deal with with Pinto expected to stick with the same starting XI which earned a point against England.
Head to Head
This will be the first time these teams have clashed in a senior international.
It’s the end of the line for one of the World Cup’s surprise packages after this one – although as mentioned in my antepost preview this tournament-hardened Greek side were great value to qualify from a relatively weak group.
Neither will go down without a fight though, that’s guaranteed, although goals may not be too forthcoming
– it’s 4/9 for there to be Under 2.5 in 90 minutes and that’s no surprise as that’s been the case in three of the last four for Costa Rica while Greece have had three 0-0 draws in their last six.
A war of attrition looks likely then and though Santos’ men look the value here at 9/4 the EVS in the ‘Draw no Bet’ market looks a safer and wiser option.