RECIFE – 2nd rd: Costa Rica 1, Greece 1 (Costa Rica 5-3 on pens, aet)
—- Costa Rica’s World Cup dream shows no sign of ending after they made history in reaching the quarter-finals for the first time after beating Greece in a shootout despite having had to play nearly an hour with 10 men.
Los Ticos will face Holland in Salvaor on Saturday following a game which ended 1-1 in normal time after they conceded a Greek equaliser to Sokratis Papastathopoulos in psychologically-ravaging stoppage time.
Bryan Ruiz had side-footed Costa Rica into a 52nd-minute lead before team-mate Oscar Duarte was shown the red card for a second yellow in the 65th.
Greece, encouraged, grew stronger the longer the game went on but were defied by goalkeeper Keylor Navas who was Costa Rica’s hero in normal time, extra time and then the penalty shootout.
After seven flawless penalties Navas saved from Theofanis Gekas to allow Michael Umana to crack home the decisive, fifth Costa Rican spotkick.
Fernando Santos, the Greeks’ Portuguese manager, missed seeing the shootout after apparently having been sent from the bench following a heated discussion with Australian referee Benjamin Williams.
Costa Rica had defied logic ever since qualifying. They were drawn in a group with three former World Cup-winners in Italy, Uruguay and England yet beat the first two and drew the other to top the table and reach the knockout round for the first time since their only previous appearance at that stage 24 years ago in Italy.
Coach Jorge Luis Pinto said his team had worked hard on penalties in training: “We practised penalties before and we had studied the opposition and that’s why we scored 100pc.
“It was a dramatic match, a very difficult one. There were moments when we dominated the match but there were other moments when they did – but we were strong and we came through.
“This is an incredible emotion that we all feel. This is an important win for the team and for the whole country. We are really proud. We are making history. It’s beautiful what we have done. This win is for everyone in Costa Rica.”
For managerial counterpart Santos, defeat meant the end of his reign as Greece manager, having led the Euro 2004 winners to the World Cup knockout stages for the first time.
He said: “I don’t really like talking about luck or lack of luck. It is is a sad moment for us because obviously we want to keep creating history and to make the Greek people even happier. That was not possible.
“When the fifth penalty went in I felt sadness, just sadness. I wanted to continue, I wanted to go to Salvador – the team wanted to go to Salvador. It was a group feeling of sadness.”