World Cup Round of 16 preview: Costa Rica v Greece

Costa Rica face Greece in this World Cup Round of 16 clash at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife on Monday, June 30, from 6am (AEST).

Two countries coming to Brazil to surprise have done exactly that. Given the worst betting odds to win their respective groups, they have made it out and now fancy their chances of progressing further and turning even more heads. Shaun Moran takes you through what you need to know in the lead up.

Head to head

Played: These two countries are yet to meet at senior level.

The game

A win would propel one of these teams into uncharted territory, with neither having played in a World Cup quarter final. In fact, the Central Americans are only taking part in their second ever Round of 16 match since their famous appearance in 1990, while the Greeks will be in the knockout stages for the first time.

The Ticos triumphed in a pool in which no one gave them any hope. Uruguay and Italy both fell at the hands of the minnows and a draw against England in their final hit-out ensured that they would top the standings.

Compact and impermeable defending has been behind their success thus far. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas has yet to be beaten from open play, permitting them to keep two clean sheets in three matches.

Skipper Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell have led the line up front and will be the men the Greece backline will want to keep quiet throughout.

The likelihood of this happening has been heightened by Greece’s past two contests. Only one goal has been put past them following their initial 3-0 loss to Colombia. Fernando Santos’ men navigated a somewhat different route past the group stages in stark contrast to the Costa Ricans.

A scrappy last-gasp win over the Ivory Coast was enough for them to finish behind Colombia. Their safety-first style has drawn the critics as per usual, but they did manage to loosen the shackles in their final match and show a glimpse of what they are capable of going forward.

Captain Kostas Katsouranis will miss out due to suspension, while injury concerns mean Orestis Karnezis and Panagiotis Kone are not certain starters.

The big issue

Who will buckle?

Both teams have heavily and successfully relied on their defences to get them to where they are now. Two teams pitting similar styles up against one another has the potential to go either way.

Locking horns would be comfortable and conservative but some ingenuity and risk taking could also prove to be as effective in unlocking the opposition’s defence.

The latter approach may be the only way to escape a dreary and tedious stalemate and avoiding the lottery of spot kicks.

The game breaker

Keylor Navas’s rating as one of La Liga’s finest shot-stoppers from last season has been vindicated in the past fortnight.

His organisation, ability to make crucial saves and lively nature has made it hell for opposing teams who have been thwarted time after time.

Greece will need to be at their absolute best to get past the Levante keeper who will once again make it anything but easy.

Prediction: Costa Rica 0 - 0 Greece 

Unlikely to appeal to the purists, this encounter will be void of goals. A reticent and cautious approach from both sides will most likely be decided by penalties.