Costa Rica vs Greece World Cup 2014 preview: Jorge Luis Pinto's faith in team ethic gives Costa Rica the edge

Colombian coach will be ordering more of the same tomorrow against Greece

Some years ago, on holiday to Costa Rica, I was struck by how every town, village and hamlet, however small, had three common elements: a school, a church, and a football pitch. Now the world is waking up to the fact that this small central American country, previously best-known for not having an army, is also obsessed with football.

Given that enthusiasm, and a population larger than Uruguay (twice winners in the early years, and also semi-finalists in 2010), Croatia (semi-finalists in 1998) and Republic of Ireland (quarter-finalists in 1990) it is perhaps surprising Costa Rica have not been more successful. It is not, however, easy to qualify from Concacaf with Mexico and United States so dominant in the north and central Americas and Caribbean region.

Nevertheless, Costa Rica have the third strongest domestic league after those two giants, a fact reflected in two players in their giant-killing side, Michael Unama and Yeltsin Tejeda, playing for Saprissa in the capital, San Jose, and a third home-based player, Cartagines’ Randall Brenes, being introduced against England.

 

Having reached Brazil, Costa Rica have prospered in the heat. Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz, their captain, said beforehand that “the climactic conditions give us an advantage, in Costa Rica we are used to the humidity,” and so it has proved. They have also, as Ruiz anticipated, played as a team not a collection of individuals like some countries (Cameroon and Ghana being the more obvious examples).

This is partly down to the coach, Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto, who places great store by positional discipline and a group ethic. This has enabled Costa Rica, unlike the team that came bottom of Group D, to be more than the sum of its parts; while the bulk of the squad play in Europe only two figured in the Champions League last season: Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell with Olympiakos, and Copenhagen’s Christian Bolanos.

Joel Campbell celebrates scoring for Costa Rica Joel Campbell celebrates scoring for Costa Rica  

In this they are similar to tomorrow night’s opponents, Greece, who have largely stuck to the template established by Otto Rehhagel in winning Euro 2004. The Greeks, though, are more defensive in outlook, qualifying despite scoring only two goals in three games. Pinto will look to  emulate his countrymen who put three past Greece in their opening game causing them trouble on both flanks.

The Greeks will know all about Campbell, who scored nine goals last season for an Olympiakos side who provide three of Greece’s defensive players.

Both sides, having not expected to meet each other at this stage, have been frantically plotting since qualification on Tuesday. Tejeda said, “We were thinking more about Colombia and the Ivory Coast and in the end came the least expected team. Now we have to change the video  cassette.”

Greece manager Fernando Santos will have been even more surprised to be facing Costa Rica, though perhaps the most taken aback of all are ITV Sport, who must have hoped to have England as tomorrow evening’s primetime viewing, but now get the most unlikely knock-out tie since Portugal met North Korea at Goodison Park in 1966.

That match finished 5-3, Eusebio reviving the Portuguese after North Korea took an incredible 3-0 lead. ITV will hope tomorrow’s game is just as dramatic.

News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
people

Tennis star is set to marry his long-term girlfriend, Kim Sears

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?