Costa Rica are determined to score first when they tackle Greece in the World Cup last 16 in Recife today.
Greece have developed a reputation over the years of being extremely hard to break down, particularly if they take the lead.
They have almost perfected the classic Italian system of catenaccio (bolt-lock) in which teams play in an ultra-defensive way and hope to score a single goal on the counterattack to take a lead they would then defend.
Los Ticos technical assistant Luis Marin said his team needs to score early to prevent Greece from taking the lead and then shutting up shop.
“It’s crucial for us to score early in the game, especially as Greece are known to tighten up at the back once they score,” Marin said. “But we know it’s going to be a tough game all round. Although they lost to Colombia (3-0), the goals they conceded were down to simple mistakes. Greece are also potent on the counterattack.”
“Penalties could play a role at some point. They are a part of the game and although we hope it doesn’t happen, we have to prepare for every scenario,” he said. “We’ve been practicing shooting from the penalty spot.”
Costa Rica emerged as one of the form teams of the group stages, stunning Uruguay and then Italy before drawing with England to finish top of Group D.
Greece only just squeezed into the knockout round by the skin of their teeth, Giorgios Samaras converting a late penalty to hand Fernando Santos’ men a decisive 2-1 win over Ivory Coast to book their first-ever last 16 appearance. It was only Greece’s second goal in three matches. Having steered Greece to the knockout stages, Santos said Costa Rica would be a force to be reckoned with.
“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 afford to underestimate them,” Santos said.
As well as their potent attack, Costa Rica can boast a tight defense, having conceded just one goal in the tournament so far — an Edinson Cavani penalty during their 3-1 defeat of Uruguay.
“If we have a good point, it’s our defensive system, which isn’t just the four or five defenders,” coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. “Our defense is balanced, tough and very efficient.”
Given the flair with which Costa Rica sailed through Group D, they should start as favorites at the Arena Pernambuco — where they stunned a lifeless Italy 1-0 last week.
If Greece progress, the country’s federation bosses will need to look for a quick-fix solution to keep Santos on board for a few extra days.
Santos’ contract runs out the day after the last 16 clash, and the trained electrical engineer has said he has no intention of having it renewed come what may.