Costa Rica vs. Greece: Final score 1-1 (5-3), 10-man Ticos win on penalties

Costa Rica took the lead against Greece then saw themselves reduced to 10 men, with Greece equalising in the last minute. But the Ticos held on to clinch a win on penalties thanks to the heroics of Keylor Navas.

Despite being reduced to 10 men for the last third of the game, Costa Rica clinched a win over Greece to record their best ever performance in a World Cup.

The Ticos have been on a fairytale run ever since topping Group D — a so-called “Group of Death” — and will now be contesting a World Cup quarterfinal thanks to Bryan Ruiz, who scored the decisive goal. Oscar Duarte saw himself sent off shortly afterwards, and Greece eventually found a breakthrough in the first minute of injury time when Sokratis Papastathopoulos scored to force extra time. But Costa Rica held on, and a heroic performance from Keylor Navas helped them after he produced a superb save to send the Ticos to a victory in the shootout.

The first half was mostly a cagey affair with both sides looking to play on the counter-attack, although there were a limited amount of chances. A decent move saw Ruiz feed Christian Bolanos early on, but the midfielder blazed his shot over the bar when well-placed to test the goalkeeper.

It was Greece who came the closest to scoring in the first half with José Holebas delivering a sensational cross from deep for Dimitris Salpingidis. Although the forward’s cushioned volley was true, he still failed to score as Keylor Navas managed to keep it out with his trailing leg, another stunning save for a hugely impressive tournament for the Ticos keeper.

Yet less than 10 minutes into the second half, Costa Rica found their opener. Bolanos found Ruiz in space in the area, and the forward finished with a deliciously calm shot which took advantage of Karnezis’ poor field of vision, calmly rolling the ball past him and into the corner of the net to give his country one foot in their first ever World Cup quarterfinal.

Costa Rica were looking on top, but the game was to take a further twist as Duarte foolishly went in with a late challenge on Holebas to earn himself a second yellow card and leave the Ticos with 30 minutes to hang on with a numerical disadvantage.

Greece poured forward with little to lose, but Costa Rica were holding out well enough. Georgios Samaras produced one archetypal piece of skill to unlock the Ticos’ defence, falling over as he stumbled into putting a good ball into the box, but Navas was able to get it away.

Greece’s terminal lack of creativity looked like it was going to cost them, yet another late goal was to come just as the game looked lost. Theofanis Gekas ought to have scored with his effort on goal and was denied by another huge save from Navas, but Papastathopoulos was waiting to prod home the rebound and prompt extra time.

Costa Rica were looking all but beaten due to exhaustion as the next 30 minutes began, but Gekas missed another fine chance after a good cross from Vasilis Torosidis. At the second half of extra time, the Ticos somehow managed to find some energy to briefly rally and create a few half-chances, with Brenes and Campbell both having decent opportunities.

Costa Rica came close from a corner but somehow contrived to allow Greece to spring a 5-on-2 counter-attack, yet when the shot eventually came from Mitroglou it was kept out by Navas, who produced another fine save to keep his team in the game. Despite the extreme fatigue of the players, the final 10 minutes were an end-to-end affair of chances at both ends, none greater than when Mitroglou collected a flick-on only for Navas, who flew out of his goal, to deny him.

It was left to penalties to separate the two sides — Celso Borges smashed home the opening penalty before Mitroglou belied his earlier misses by confidently slotting one home. Ruiz and Christodoulopoulos both also converted in a display of excellent penalty-taking before Gonzalez and Holebas also scored. The exhausted Campbell then stepped up and managed to put his away.

Next to step up was the veteran Gekas, but Navas produced maybe the best moment of his superb tournament so far to thrust out a hand and deflect it away. Michael Umana then confidently dispatched his to complete the historic night for the tiny Central American nation.

Costa Rica: Navas; Gonzalez, Duarte (sent off 66′), Gamboa (Acosta 77′), Umaña, Diaz; Borges, Bolanos (Brenes 83′), Tejeda (Cubero 66′); Ruiz; Campbell

Goals: Ruiz (52′)

Greece: Karnezis, Holebas, Manolas, Papastathopoulos, Torosidis; Karagounis, Maniatis (Katsouranis 78′), Samaris (Mitroglou 58′), Salpingidis (Gekas 69′),  Christodoulopoulos, Samaras

Goals: Papastathopoulos (90+1′)

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