Ten-man Costa Rica beat Greece on penalties, reach World Cup quarters

Recife (Brazil): Ten-man Costa Rica beat Greece 5-3 on penalties after being tied 1-1 in regular time here Sunday to setup a World Cup quarterfinal showdown against the Netherlands.

Costa Rica, known as the Ticos, scored all their five penalty kicks while Greek veteran striker Theofanis Gekas’s fourth round effort was denied by keeper Keilor Navas, reports Xinhua.

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The first half was dull and slow and full of turnovers with lacklustre performance from both sides. The Arena Pemambuco was surrounded by boos from the stands, when the referee Benjamin Willianms blew the whistle to end the first half. But the second was filled with drama.

The Ticos skipper Bryan Ruiz met a low cross from Christian Bolanos at the edge of the box in the 52nd minute.

The 28-year-old, who was on loan in PSV Eindhoven from English Championship club Fulham, failed to shoot with his full strength but the ball dribbled into the side netting with Greek keeper Orestis Karnezis not even making a save.

It was the second goal for Ruiz in the tournament. He also scored the winner in the 1-0 victory against Italy in the second round group match also in Recife last Friday.

The Ticos were reduced to ten men in the 66th minute. Defender Oscar Duarte received his second booking of the match after a careless tackle on Cholevas.

Costa Rica were under great pressure for the following 30 minutes. And the Greeks managed to score in injury time again.

Central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, who stayed up front after a late run into the box, nodded down a lofted ball to second half substitute Gekas.

The latter’s powerful shot was denied by Navas but Papastathopoulos followed up and lashed home the rebound.

The Greeks could have finished the match in regular time but Konstantinos Mitroglou’s header from close range was palmed away by Navas.

After the 90 minutes of play ended at 1-1, neither team managed to score again in extra time and had to decide the match through penalty kick.

The 26-year-old Mitroglou missed another chance in the dying minutes of the extra time as his close range snap shot was again stopped by Navas.

It is the fourth time for Los Ticos to compete in the World Cup finals. They enjoyed a wonderful debut in 1994 when they, led by the vastly experienced coach Bora Milutinovic, beat Sweden and Scotland to reach the knockout rounds but failed to make it to the quarterfinal after losing to Czechoslovakia.

In 2002 and 2006 World Cups Costa Rica never managed to emerge from the group stage.

In the quarterfinals, Costa Rica will be facing the Netherlands who rallied to beat Mexico 2-1 in Fortaleza in an earlier game Sunday.