Game on: Costa Rica, Greece prepared for a defensive duel?
Today’s Round of 16 match marks the first time Greece have advanced beyond the group stages, and the second time Costa Rica have done so. But will any neutrals be glad to see them continue on?
Well, fans of CONCACAF will be thrilled to see the confederation getting more respect, particularly since success in the World Cup could mean an extra half-spot granted for future tournaments. And there are those that are happy that Greece’s football team is bringing joy to a nation that’s experienced such turmoil over the last few years.
But really, do these neutrals actually want to watch them play? Let’s find out...
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Costa Rica: Navas; Gonzalez, Duarte, Gamboa, Umaña, Diaz; Borges, Bolanos, Tejeda; Ruiz; Campbell.
Greece: Karnezis, Maniatis, Manolas, Samaras, Karagounis, Salpingidis, Torosidis, Lazaros, Sokratis, Cholevas, Samaris
Are Greece really that defensive?
Well, yes and no. Since winning Euro 2004 with a defensive system, Greece has had the reputation of being a defensive-minded team. And, as Fernando Santos himself admits, it’s been hard to change the mindset of his players, to encourage them to shift to a more attack-oriented system.
Yet Greece have trouble defending. They made it through UEFA qualifying with only four goals shipped, but four of those came from Bosnia, the only strong team they faced. Then, of course, they fell apart against Colombia in the first match, conceding three goals.
Greece didn’t score until the 42nd minute of their third match, further adding fuel to the boring fire. But when they did finally decide to attack, they were actually fun - and that’s what we’re all hoping happens here.
But can Greece manage to get past Navas?
Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas has truly impressed at this World Cup. The Ticos may enjoy sitting back and have perfected their tight defense, but it’s Navas that has ensured they’ve conceded just one goal thus far at the tournament. The 27-year-old as loaned to Spanish side Levante in 2011 and has been there ever since. Whether he will stay, well, that’s doubtful. The goalkeeper’s quick reflexes and intense concentration have made him one of the standouts thus far, and he could very well be the main reason Costa Rica are able to frustrate Greece.
The edge goes to Costa Rica, who topped their group with two wins and a draw. As said before, it took Greece over 222 minutes to find the back of the net. Now they’re going to have to do it against one of the most talented goalkeepers at this World Cup.
One blogger’s prediction
Making my own predictions has yet to work. I’m going to go right along with the general expectation, and throw my weight behind Costa Rica.