Surprise packages Costa Rica could need extra time to get past Greece.
No-one outside of Central America gave Costa Rica any hope of emerging from a group which featured past World Cup winners Italy, Uruguay and England. But they have and are still unbeaten while the Azzurri and the Three Lions have left with their tails between their legs.
Victories over Uruguay and Italy meant that Jorge Pinto’s men had already qualified for the knockout stages before they were held by a virtually second-string England in Belo Horizonte. The game was almost meaningless and rarely sprang to life but Pinto was able to rest one or two of his players and there is clearly a good team spirit among the underdogs.
Bryan Ruiz, who was a bit of a flop for Fulham, has been one of the stars of his country’s unlikely progress and Arsenal’s Joel Campbell looks to have a huge future, though has still to make a breakthrough at the Emirates.
Keylor Navas has only conceded one goal so far and the goalkeeper is a reported target for Real Madrid after the World Cup. The Levante stopper’s stock has certainly risen over the last couple of weeks and Greece will find it hard to beat him.
The Greeks made it through to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 after losing their opening group game and their campaign in Brazil has followed a similar pattern. They’ve never played Costa Rica before but seem to relish the role of the underdog.
Former Celtic favourite Georgios Samaras was their hero against the Ivory Coast in their final group game, winning and converting a stoppage-time penalty to fatally wound the Elephants who had looked on course to accompany Colombia into the last 16 until that point.
But will their luck run out against Costa Rica, who look far more organized and carry a greater goal threat overall on the evidence so far? It’s probable that the knockout stages were the limit of both teams’ ambitions so it will be interesting to see who manages to hold their nerve best in a game both will see as eminently winnable.
We have the draw at 2/1 and that looks fractionally better value than the 6/4 for a Costa Rica win. The latter can be backed at 13/10 to keep a clean sheet.
The match kicks off at 5pm UK time on Sunday June 29th at the Arena Pernambuco, Recife.