April 12, 2021

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Greece and Costa Rica are ready for the challenge

Both Costa Rica and Greece have a similar story going into their match on Sunday.
Costa Rica wasn’t expected to qualify considering their ‘group of death’. But lo and behold, it beat both Uruguay and Italy and drew with toothless England. The world suddenly sat up and started watching Jorge Luis Pinto’s team, putting them in the likely box of finals contenders.
Greece, though, has been hanging on a knife’s edge after lacklustre performances that could have gone either way, had Giorgos Samaras not scored that bullet penalty.
Now both will face off in a frightful battle, and Greece is fully aware of the challenge it faces.
Coach Fernando Santos is already acting quite methodically, trying to size up its opponents.
“We have time to think about the match with Costa Rica. We will go back to our base, think about it and study our opponents,” he said after the 2-1 win against Ivory Coast.
“We have to pay a lot of attention to this game, they came out top in the ‘group of death’. As a result we can’t allow ourselves to underestimate them.”
The match comes the day before Santos’ contract runs out and the trained electrical engineer has no intention of having it renewed come what may, although as he joked before the tournament they may have to extend it by a few days as the quarter-finals fall after it.
Santos, who had extensive experience as a club coach in Greece before replacing the EURO 2004 winning handler Otto Rehhagel in 2010, is not so amused by the continuing belief that Greece only knows how to defend and hit people with the odd goal.
“I can but laugh as it is a joke. In football one attacks and one defends. We know how to defend well and we are very good on the counter-attack.”
Its first two games in the Cup were certainly on the way to proving the misconception, with a clean sheet loss to Colombia and a nil draw to Japan making Greek fans furious.
Attacking will be high on Santos’ agenda, and lots of plays will be geared towards getting Giorgos Samaras as close to a clean shot as possible.
At least Costa Rica has to go back to the drawing board with Greece, with Yeltsin Tejeda admitting the qualification has forced Costa Rica to rewrite its strategy.
“They are in the World Cup and they beat an excellent team, Ivory Coast,” said the 22-year-old midfielder. “If they are there (in the Round of 16), it is because they were better.”