Costa Rica have already exceeded expectations at the 2014 World Cup and as they prepare to face Greece in the last 16, the message from coach Jorge Luis Pinto is a simple one: “Think big.”
The Ticos provided one of the surprises of the first round by winning a group containing Uruguay, Italy and England, and Pinto wants them to keep their impressive run going against Greece at Recife’s Arena Pernambuco.
Costa Rica have never been beyond the round of 16 but Pinto said: “We have to keep doing what we’ve already been doing and play on the front foot. We didn’t sit back in any of the three games in the first phase and it won’t happen now. We think big.”
Given their success so far in Brazil, Costa Rica will actually start as slight favourites against a Greece side who sprang their own surprise in Group C by sneaking into the round of 16 after a disputed injury-time penalty by Georgios Samaras secured a 2-1 victory over Ivory Coast. The Central Americans will also be back at a venue where they have already beaten Italy and “feel at home”, as the Colombian Pinto said, though he warned Fernando Santos’s Greece represent awkward opponents. “We will give Greece all the respect they deserve,” he said.
"They are a team that can defend well and can score goals, and it's difficult to control them."
This is the first time that Greece have been beyond the group phase of a World Cup and they will be buoyed by their impressive counterattacking performance against Ivory Coast last Tuesday. While midfielder Panagiotis Kone is missing, captain Kostas Katsouranis is back from suspension though he may well start on the bench with veteran Georgios Karagounis retaining his place.
Greece’s against-the-odds success against Ivory Coast recalled their Euro 2004 triumph a decade ago yet their coach Santos used the memory of that tournament to warn about Costa Rica’s potential. "They were saying there are three world champions [in Group C] and they will qualify, but Costa Rica showed the opposite. That reminded me of Greece in 2004. An unknown team that secured this historical achievement and this is one more reason why we must pay attention to them.”
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