With an extra man and the extra options it brings, Greece were the dominant side in extra-time. But the spirited Costa Ricans gave everything to hang on for a shootout
Theofanis Gekas reacts after missing during a penalty shootout against Costa Rica at the Pernambuco arena in Recife, 29 June 2014 (Photo: Reuters) Greece’s most capped player, team captain Yiorgos Karagounis, has announced his retirement from international football after the country’s World Cup elimination in a penalty shootout loss to Costa Rica on Sunday.
With 139 appearances over 15 years since making his debut in 1999, Karagounis was a member of the victorious squad that won the European Championship in 2004.
Greece succumbed to Costa Rica in Recife on penalties, in a game that ended 1-1 after 120 minutes of play.
Outstanding goalkeeper Keylor Navas was the hero of the shootout as he saved a crucial spot-kick from Theofanis Gekas, the only player from nine to miss. When Michael Umana put the ball in the back of the net, he booked Los Ticos – as the Costa Rican side is known – a date with Holland in the quarter finals.
Manager Fernando Santos, who is also leaving the Greek national team, said Greece wasted a golden opportunity to beat Costa Rica in extra time.
“I don’t think we used the 30 minutes (of extra time) as well as we should. We started it as if it was the last minute of the game, but there was still 30 left,” the Portuguese-born Santos told a news conference.
“We just needed to pass it around well and go into their half of the field and do things well. We were controlling the game, but then we wanted to try to finalise things individually,” said Santos, who was sent to the stands for arguing with the referee before the penalty shootout.
Thanking the fans in Greek, he added: “We have achieved so many things in those four years, but this is a sad day for us and I would not talk about them now. I believed very much in qualifying. We did not have any clear thinking in extra time and often attacked in an unorthodox way,” the Portuguese stated, thanking Greece’s fans in Greek.
The game began cautiously. The Greeks, surprise qualifiers from the group stage, did their all to slow the game down from the start. Perhaps fearful of Costa Rica’s lightning counter-attacks, the 2004 European champions rarely pressed forward in a cagey opening period.
Local supporters in the Arena Pernambuco, site of Costa Rica’s famous win over Italy in the group stage, whistled the dour Greek tactics at every opportunity as they have come to appreciate Los Ticos in this part of the country. There were half-chances for both sides over the course of the first half, but neither Joel Campbell nor Yiorgos Samaras were able to make much of them.
The best chance of the period fell, almost predictably, to Greece on a sneaky break. A clever early cross from the left picked out Dimitrios Salpingidis at the far post, but the Paok striker was denied by the sprawling Navas, who made a miraculous save from one of few shots on target.
Samaras had another header saved shortly after the break. The Greeks were beginning to look dangerous from set-pieces, but it was a false dawn as Costa Rica thrilled their adoptive fans with a goal of stunning quality. Christian Bolanos picked out captain and classy creator Bryan Ruiz unmarked on the edge of the box, and he side-footed into the bottom corner.
Things suddenly went dark for the Costa Ricans mid-way through the second-half. Defensive lynchpin Oscar Duarte was shown his second yellow card in the 66th minute for a rash challenge on Jose Cholevas and was promptly given his marching orders. Just when it seemed Los Ticos would survive playing a man down, Greece broke their hearts. Navas palmed away a shot from close-range with two minutes to go and Sokratis hammered home the rebound to spark wild celebrations in the Greek camp.
With an extra man and the extra options it brings, Greece were the dominant side in extra-time. But the spirited Costa Ricans gave everything to hang on for a shootout. All nine penalty takers scored before Theofanis Gekas stepped up and had his kick saved by Navas. Michael Umana then sealed the win for the Central Americans.
They now move on to meet the Netherlands on 5 July in Salvador after the Oranje dispatched Costa Rica’s rivals Mexico in dramatic circumstances earlier in the day.