Quarter-finals: France – Colombia – Belgium – Costa Rica
World Cup progress: Round of 16
Team rating: 7
Top scorer: Papastathopoulos, Samaras, Samaris (1)
Greece battled hard to prolong their stay in Brazil, but ultimately suffered penalty shootout heartache against Costa Rica, reflects Oli Coates.
Greece slip up on penalties
Greece displayed the determination in Brazil that saw them crowned European champions a decade ago, battling back from the brink of elimination having suffered a comprehensive defeat in their opening fixture against Colombia.
A goalless draw against Japan was followed by a dramatic late show against Ivory Coast, where a Georgios Samaras penalty in the final throes of injury time sent Fernando Santos’ side through to the Round of 16 at the expense of the Africans.
It was the first time Greece had qualified for the knockout rounds of the World Cup, but they will be disappointed that it ended in the second round, despite more late drama and playing against 10 men for almost an hour. Sokratis Papastathopoulos took the clash with Costa Rica to an extra time period that the Europeans dominated, but it was Los Ticos who progressed thanks to the penalty shootout heroics of goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The Coach – Fernando Santos
Following in the hallowed footsteps of Otto Rehhagel, Santos has adopted a similar style based on defensive solidity that was evident in Brazil. After shipping three goals in their opening game, the Portuguese Coach tightened his defence up to concede just twice more in their remaining ties – his tactics almost took them to the quarter-finals.
Player of the Tournament – Georgios Samaras
Hardly prolific in front of goal with just nine strikes from 78 international appearances, Samaras was presented with an opportunity from 12 yards against Ivory Coast after winning a penalty deep into injury time. It was a Herculean effort to overcome the pressure he was faced with to dispatch the ball into the back of the net.
Requiring victory in their final group game against Ivory Coast, the Greeks were staring down the barrel of elimination before Samaras’ dramatic penalty saved them.
|24-Jun-14||Greece||2-1||Ivory Coast||Group C|
|29-Jun-14||Costa Rica||1-1||Greece||Round of 16|
|(5-3 on pens)|
For a complete review of the 2014 World Cup, check out the next issue of Soccer Italia, written by the team at Football Italia and available on worldwide subscription.