Costa Rica impress as a small nation makes huge strides

In Recife, Costa Rica and Greece played 120 minutes to a 1-1 deadlock, and for the second time in four matches, a Round of 16 game was decided by penalty kicks.

The first half was a lackluster affair, with both sides having a hard time putting together good sequences. If anything, the more defensive-minded Greeks looked more dangerous on the offensive end than the Ticos.

In the 52nd minute, Bryan Ruiz, the captain of the Tico team and its most famous player, took a cross and calmly rolled it into the corner of the net, almost as if in slow motion.

In the 65th minute, defender Oscar Duarte earned a second yellow card and got himself kicked out of the game, leaving Costa Rica a man down for the rest of the match.

The Costa Rican keeper, Keylor Navas, made a series of amazing saves, especially in the second half, but in the first minute of stoppage time, Sokratis Papastathopoulos converted on a rebound of yet another Navas save, to tie the game at 1.

The Greeks owned the overtime period, pressing the Ticos throughout. Their physical play had a number of the Costa Ricans, even Navas, nursing injuries, and Konstantinos Mitroglou very nearly had the game winner in the stoppage for overtime.

The Australian referee, Benjamin Williams, reacted sharply, and somewhat strangely to both benches. In one instance he ran halfway across the field to give a card to Costa Rican reserve midfielder Oscar Granados.

Just before the shootout, he ejected Greece’s Portuguese coach, Fernando Santos.

Despite being the more exhausted side, the Ticos nailed all five of their penalty kicks, while Navas made a picture-perfect save on Theofanis Gekas’ kick, diving to his left for the stop.

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