A team cannot make mistakes and go unpunished in the knock out round – the business session of a major event like World Cup football.
That was again proved Saturday in the first two games of the Pre-quarter finals involving four of the five teams of South America qualifying to this stage.
Brazil managed to get better of Chile with the stroke of luck. Colombia outplayed another previous World Cup Champions Uruguay setting a date with host and favorite Brazil for the all South American semifinal.
Big teams grow bigger as tournament wears on. Matters like penalty shootout type gamble needs cool nerves, experience and courage. Brazil had that and so it survived the Challenge of Chile and moved on.
Two of the Chile penalties were saved brilliantly by Brazil Goalkeeper Cesar and one struck the side post. Brazil scored 3 from five and got better of Chile by 3-2. The 120 minutes duel earlier ended 1-1. Chile has never beaten Brazil in Brazil. Brazil was however deprived of a goal disallowed through a controversial decision of hand ball which did not appear so in TV footage.
The Colombia Uruguay match was enthralling and entertaining. Uruguay without their star performer Suarez suspended for biting Italian defender put up a brave fight against a very strong looking determined Colombian team.
Colombia won the fourth game in as many matches in this world cup and appears to put up a strong challenge to their fancied South American Contestant Brazil in the Semifinal. Their young Forward. Rodriguez is in sublime goal scoring form.
With 5 loving goals in four matches (scored in all matches so far he is now a leading contender for the golden boot. The first goal he scored with a left foot volley on the day from about 25 metera outside was among the best in this world cup so far.
Tonight in Bangladesh standard time Netherlands will play Mexico and Costa Rica will take on Greece. We have already discussed the match between Netherlands and Mexico as this writer read the schedule wrong thinking that the match was due last night. Anyway let us try to preview one more matches here.
Costa Rica – Greece Match:
Costa Rica appeared as the giant killer in this year’s world cup so far causing some major upsets. They were in the real group of death having three previous world champions Italy, England and Uruguay who among them won 6 of the 19 previous championships.
No pre-tournament analysis gave them any chance terming them as easy fodder for the horses of the group. But how brilliantly they turned the table on favorites? They beat Uruguay and Italy and held England. None of the previous champions could get better of the team from CONCAF region.
In our count down we predicted that Costa Rica may turned spoiler and bury the dreams of one or two favorites of the group. They accounted for two of them Italy and England and the other Uruguay stumbled in pre quarter last night against Colombia.
Costa Rica boss, Jorge Luis Pinto is expected to name the same XI that beat Italy in their penultimate Group D game, having made two changes to his starting line-up for the 0-0 draw with England last time out. Fernando Santos admits it would be foolish for his Greece team to under-estimate giant-killers Costa Rica at the Arena Pernambuco. Pinto’s men stunned Uruguay 3-1 and then beat Italy 1-0 to send England out of the tournament with one match to spare.
Costa Rica's squad contains players from unheralded teams like Kuban Krasnodar, Alajuelense and Columbus Crew, but they have won many admirers for their flamboyant attacking football.
Off the pitch, the players are not so flamboyant. They are understated and calm about the prospect of making it through to the quarter-finals for the first time.
"To have qualified top of the group makes us proud," defender Michael Umana said.
"It gives us great satisfaction as a group. We have grown as a team although we have always been characterized by strong and silent work."
With so much riding on the match, Costa Rica would be forgiven for adopting a more cautious approach in Recife, where thunderstorms are expected on Sunday night.
And if there is no winner after 120 minutes, Costa Rica will be prepared for what comes next.
"Penalties could play a crucial role at any moment," Costa Rica assistant manager Luis Marin said.
"So we have been practicing them for the last few days and we know who will take them."
The winner of Sunday evening's match will take on either Mexico or Holland, who play earlier in the day, in the quarter-finals.
This game will be tight and tense for 20 minutes but eventually Costa Rica’s speed and strength will open Greece up and they will continue their fairy-tale run
Greece – 10 years on from an improbable Euro 2004 triumph built on solid defending and set-pieces – could easily be regarded as unwelcome gatecrashers at a World Cup party marked by exciting, attacking football.
This tournament has seen more goals per game (2.83) in the group stage than any World Cup since 1958, yet Greece’s goals-per-game average on this stage is 0.44. Indeed, before overcoming Ivory Coast 2-1 after Georgios Samaras’s injury-time penalty to snatch second place in Group C, they had found the net in only one of eight previous World Cup matches in their history.
One player from today’s last-16 opponents, Costa Rica, Yeltsin Tejeda, unwittingly summed up this feeling of a team swimming against the tide when he admitted the Central American side had been thinking about facing Colombia or Ivory Coast but now had “to change the video cassette.
To understand the Greek approach you have to rewind 20 years to the country’s first World Cup appearance, at USA 94. When Greek journalists came home complaining about “4-4-2”, it had nothing to do with tactics but rather the beatings their team suffered: 4-0 against both Argentina and Bulgaria and 2-0 against Nigeria.
Given Greece’s supply line of good defensive players and simultaneous struggle to produce a world-class striker, it is no surprise they retained the safety-first template. Even in qualifying for Brazil they managed just 12 goals in 10 group games yet conceded only four.
The question now is whether Greece will spread their wings once more or revert to type against Costa Rica in Recife today. The Central Americans have already spoken of the importance of scoring first, doubtless having noted the excellence of the Greece centre-backs Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Kostas Manolas when holding out with 10 men in the goalless draw with Japan
One Greek journalist twitted, “It depends on the circumstances. If we score first, maybe we will see the bus parked again.”
Greece, who qualified for the knockout stages for the first time in their history thanks to a controversial last-minute penalty against Ivory Coast on Tuesday, will definitely be without midfielder Panagiotis Kone through injury.
Goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis should be fit despite suffering a knock against the Elephants. Coach Fernando Santos must decide whether to recall captain Katsouranis, who was suspended for the Ivory Coast match
Our Prediction for the match: This game will be tight and tense for 20 minutes but eventually Costa Rica’s speed and strength will open Greece up and they will continue their fairy-tale run. Costa Rica will be up against in form Netherlands if they can read Greek Mythology well tonight as Dutch team is expected to huddle across and over Mexico tonight. But with so many surprises around can one guarantee?
BDST: 1414 HRS, JUN 29, 2014