Costa Rica v Greece: Expert v Expert Preview


Two surprise packages face off in the second round in Recife, as Costa Rica  and Greece  bid to keep their World Cups alive. Eduardo Mendez and Chris Paraskevas fill us in on two teams looking to be surprise quarter-finalists.

TEAM NEWS

Eduardo Mendez on Costa Rica: Jorge Luis Pinto made two changes for Costa Rica’s scoreless draw with England, but expect him to revert back to his first-choice XI against Greece. Roy Miller didn’t show well enough to merit another start at centre-back, carelessly gifting England possession on several occasions. Randall Brenes did little to create chances from the left side of the formation. Michael Umaña and Christian Bolaños should and will to return to the starting lineup (5-4-1): Navas - Diaz, Umaña, Gonzalez, Duarte, Gamboa - Bolaños, Tejeda, Borges, Ruiz - Campbell.

Chris Paraskevas on Greece: In midfield, Andreas Samaris will retain his starting spot in the absence of the injured Panagiotis Kone. Samaris replaced Kone in the Ivory Coast game and scored the opening goal just before half-time, while goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis was also forced off with injury in that game. He will likely be fit for the Costa Rica game, however, but veteran Kostas Katsouranis appears set to be named a substitute, despite returning from suspension.

FORM

Eduardo Mendez: Having already qualified for the second round, Costa Rica passively meandered around the pitch for the first 70 minutes against England. By the final whistle, the match felt more like an international friendly than anything else. That’s one of the benefits of meeting a goal ahead of schedule. But even in a tame effort, Los Ticos still managed to finish another 90 minutes without conceding a goal in open play. Even better, they haven’t conceded at all in the last 246 minutes.

Chris Paraskevas: Greece started the tournament very slowly, humbled 3-0 by Colombia in their opening game before recovering with a dogged display against Japan, after having a man sent off. That point was crucial but the victory against the Ivory Coast was miraculous. The Greeks fully deserved their 2-1 win and ultimately, a place in the knockout stages. Fernando Santos’ side posted their most impressive performance under the Portuguese manager and could easily have won the game by two or three more goals. The win was only their second ever at the World Cup and this is the first time Greece will be in the last-16. 

WHAT THE MANAGER SAYS

Costa Rica boss Jorge Luis Pinto: “All my life I have fought to go to a World Cup and things have gone well. My job is showing well, with substance and quality. We’re a tactical team with a dynamic style of play, forcing everyone in the world to do their homework.”

Greece boss Fernando Santos: “We have to pay a lot of attention to this game, they came out top in the 'Group of Death'. As a result we cannot allow ourselves to underestimate them.”

KEY MAN

Eduardo Mendez: Stymying the counter-attack runs of Georgios Samaras will be the key to Costa Rica’s success on Sunday. The responsibility to do so falls squarely on the shoulders of right centre-back Oscar Duarte. According to the statisticians at WhoScored, the 25-year-old has been dribbled on an average of 1.3 times per match. Bettering that average and playing a more composed 90 minutes of football will ultimately decide the contest.

Chris Paraskevas: Lazaros Christodoulopoulos. Handed a shock start in the game against the Ivory Coast and repaid his manager’s faith with a man-of-the-match performance. The Bologna winger carried out his attacking and defensive duties superbly, and he was unfortunate not to grab himself a goal in the process. His energy and work-rate were instrumental in the victory down the left-flank, where he combined promisingly with Jose Holebas.

BEST BET

Eduardo Mendez: Greece was the ideal matchup for Costa Rica. With the injury to Panagiotis Kone, head coach Fernando Santos doesn’t have a quality enough midfielder to exploit Pinto’s aggressive high line. The matchup, coupled with Costa Rica’s defensive form, point to one eventual outcome: Greece under 0.5 goals at 2.25.

Chris Paraskevas: Georgios Samaras to continue his goal-scoring form and grab Greece’s first against Costa Rica at 8.00. He’s a form player and he was at his best against the Ivory Coast, where he set-up the first goal and won and converted a famous injury-time penalty.

SCORE PREDICTION

Eduardo Mendez: Costa Rica 1-0 Greece at 6.40.

Chris Paraskevas: Costa Rica 0-2 Greece at 13.00. The Greeks have experience in the knockout stages of major tournaments and are hitting form at the perfect moment.

 

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