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.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas