RECIFE, BRAZIL – Costa Rica beat Greece in a penalty shootout Sunday to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time after defending desperately with 10 men for nearly an hour.
Michael Umana scored the decisive penalty as Costa Rica won the shootout 5-3 after the game ended 1-1 following extra time.
Greece’s Theofanis Gekas had his penalty saved by Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas for the only miss in the shootout. Umana scored and straight away sprinted over to where Navas stood to hug him after the goalkeeper kept Costa Rica’s surprise run at the World Cup alive with a string of last-gasp stops through the 120 minutes.
The rest of the Costa Rican squad, which had knelt in a line during the shootout, also came racing over to join the celebrations.
Costa Rica will play the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Salvador — a first appearance in the last eight for the small Central American country that no one picked to even make it past the group stage.
“To the entire people in Costa Rica, those at home and out on the streets, this is for you,” Costa Rica’s Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. “This is a people that love football and they deserve it. . . . We will continue fighting. We will go on. We see beautiful things.”
Costa Rica had taken the lead early in the second half at Arena Pernambuco through captain Bryan Ruiz’s smooth finish but then had defender Oscar Duarte sent off in the 66th minute with a second yellow card for a mistimed tackle on Jose Holebas.
The red card changed the game and Greece poured forward for most of the remainder of the match.
The Greeks equalized and finally beat Navas in injury time when defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos smashed in a rebound from another Navas save to make the team’s numerical advantage eventually pay dividends.
Greece continued to storm forward in extra time but Navas stood in the way. He made three crucial stops just in extra time, when Greece’s Costas Katsouranis, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Konstantinos Mitroglou were all denied.
“Obviously he has to be congratulated,” Greece coach Fernando Santos said of Navas. “If it weren’t for (him), the results would have been different.”
Santos had been sent to the stands by Australian referee Ben Williams just before the penalties and said he watched the shootout on a television inside the stadium.
“Sadness,” he said of his first reaction after Greece’s elimination and his last game in charge of the team. “Definitely sadness. Not much (else) goes through your mind at that time.”
But the Costa Rican victory delighted the majority of the just over 41,000 fans in Recife as the Brazilian locals shouted for Costa Rica throughout the round-of-16 game and often broke out into chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ticos!” — using the common nickname for Costa Ricans.
While the Costa Rican team made its own World Cup history, it also ended Greece’s best-ever run. Greece was playing in the second round for the first time.
After a scoreless first half, Ruiz slid his low shot into the right corner of Greece’s goal in the 52nd minute for the lead after a pull-back by winger Christian Bolanos from the left. Duarte made a clumsy challenge on Holebas, however, and Costa Rica reverted to all-out defense to try and hang on for the win.
They nearly did it, but a close-range block by Navas from Gekas fell to Papastathopoulos in the first minute of injury time and he powered his shot home to give Greece hope.