Theofanis Gekas

10-man Costa Rica advances on penalties, eliminates Greece after 1-1 draw

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34-year-old Theofanis Gekas has been a true goalscorer wherever he’s gone, but Keylor Navas kept him out at the end of the penalty shootout and sent Costa Rica through to its first-ever World Cup quarterfinals berth.

In a game short on quality but high on drama, Greece equalized in injury time to extend the game, but could not find the winner in added time and they paid in the penalty shootout.

Bryan Ruiz unlocked the stout Greek defense just after halftime, but Oscar Duarte was sent off with a second yellow-card offense 15 minutes later, and they looked to hold on for dear life.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos leveled in added time, but the Greeks could not make the most of their opportunities in the extra half-hour.  Navas, who had been stellar all match, made a number of key saves to keep the score level and made a spectacular save in the shootout to allow the CONCACAF side to advance.

Costa Rica, the first CONCACAF side to make the quarterfinals this World Cup, will take on the Netherlands in the quarterfinals round.

The first half was listless, as Greece covered the passing lanes in their defense half superbly, and as a result Costa Rica found absolutely nothing going forward.

Altogether in the first half, Costa Rica mustered just three meager shots on goal, none of which found the target, and they failed to build any legitimate chances, botching a pair of breakaways for their only opportunities.

On the other side, the Greeks were patient in front of goal, not creating much but not wasting anything either.  They found their best opportunity in the 36th minute, when a cross from Jose Cholevas found a streaking Dimitris Salpigidis, and the 32-year-old winger slid in to connect. The great ball was only bested by a fantastic reflex save by Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas to keep the score level.

It took a little while for Costa Rica to find their legs in the second half, managing just 11 passes in the first five minutes, but they finally got a chance six minutes after the break, and Bryan Ruiz stunned the Greeks.

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Sokratis Papastathopoulos scored the equalizer in second-half injury time, but it wasn’t enough for Greece.

Christian Bolaños worked the ball on the left of the penalty area, and crossed along the ground to Ruiz at the top of the box.  Ruiz hit a slow-roller along the ground, but with Orestis Karnezis on the wrong foot, he could only watch as the ball slid into the far corner for the Costa Rican lead.

The Greeks got a break when, just a minute after the goal, they should have conceded a penalty had the referee not missed a handball in the box.  A Costa Rican cross targeting a sliding Bolaños was headed away valiantly by Vasileios Torosidis – or so it appeared at first. Replays showed Torosidis handed the ball in the box.

The Costa Rican bench was incensed at the miss, and the referee was forced to yellow card a substitute Oscar Granados on the bench for dissent.

Greece looked to get back into the game with lots of possession and an extra striker in Kostas Mitroglou, but it looked tough for Greece until the game changed.

In the 66th minute, Oscar Duarte scythed down Jose Holebas and duly earned his second yellow card for a reactive foul.  Things immediately changed, and it looked that Greece may take advantage of a Costa Rican side about to lose their heads.

The Greeks – not entirely known for their creative ability – began to make some moves. They got a major opportunity in the 71st minute when Giorgis Samaras looked to pick out one of three open attackers in the box, but Giancarlo Gonzalez was there to slam on the breaks by cutting out the cross. It would come right back at them as Samaras cut back in a lofted cross that looked destined for the head of substitute Theofanis Gekas, but Navas got there first to scramble the ball to safety.

They would press and press, and finally earn the equalizer a minute into added time. Samaras lumped a ball into the box, and as it ping-ponged between blue shirts, it fell to Gekas who ripped a howitzer at Navas. The Costa Rican stopper kept it out, but the rebound fell right to defender Papastathopoulos, and he slammed his shot into the ground, causing it to jump over a sprawled-out Navas and in.

The Greeks nearly had a winner as Mitroglou headed one destined for the underside of the bar but Navas leaped to tip it over, coming down hard on his right shoulder.

As the game went into extra time, the Costa Ricans looked to be struggling. Greece pummeled the attacking third in the opening half of extra time, pumping balls into the box and causing the Costa Ricans to defend heroically.  Tired legs coursed through the pitch, and the second half of extra time proved the same as the first.

Greece botched a massive 5-on-2 break in the 113th minute, as Mitroglou found Christodoulopoulos, but his powerful shot went right at Navas who kept it out.  Mitroglou then had his own chance in added time of the second period, but with the goal gaping, he scuffed the shot at Navas who saved.

The Greeks were hoping to advance to the quarterfinals having scored only three regulation goals, but instead Costa Rica will take on the Netherlands in the first set matchup of the next round.

LINEUPS:

Costa Rica: Navas; Gonzalez, Duarte, Gamboa (Acosta 77′), Umaña, Diaz; Borges, Bolanos (Brenes 83′), Tejeda (Cubera 66′); Ruiz; Campbell.

Goals – Ruiz 51′
Discipline – Duarte (second yellow) 66′

Greece: Karnezis, Maniatis (Katsouranis 78′), Manolas, Samaras, Karagounis, Salpingidis (Gekas 69′), Torosidis, Lazaros, Sokratis, Cholevas, Samaris (Mitroglou 58′).

Goals – Papastathopoulos 90+1′

SHOOTOUT:

Costa Rica: Borges, make; Ruiz, make; Gonzalez, make; Campbell, make; Umana, make.

Greece: Mitroglou, make; Christodoulopoulos, make; Holebas, make; Gekas, saved.

At halftime: Japan and Greece still scoreless after Katsouranis dismissal — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: Greece continued to play to type, willing to stay behind the ball during a half where Japan dominated possession. Though that dominance failed to translate onto the scoresheet, it did get a man sent off. The Samurai Blue have 45 minutes to make their numbers pay off.

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Goals: None.

Other key moments:

29′ – As expected, Japan has had the ball, but neither side’s been able to generate much danger. Off a dead ball, however, Keisuke Honda nearly changes that. Opening his left foot on a shot from well beyond the penalty area, the Milan midfielder forces Orestis Karneszis to spill the shot in front of goal. Unfortunately, none of Honda’s teammates are there to take advantage.

35′ – Now the move seems like desperation. Kostas Mitroglou, who has struggled with injuries throughout 2014, was a surprise inclusion in the starting lineup, but when the Fulham striker walked off the field grabbing his back, Fernando Santos’s gamble had cost him a substitution. Far too early, Theofanis Gekas was Greece’s first man off the bench.

38′ – Japan had been holding over 70 percent of the ball, making it difficult to imagine Greece playing further on their back foot. In the 38th minute, however, when Konstantinos Katsouranis drew a second yellow card, the Greeks were left with 10 men. By the end of the half, Japan’s possession is climbing toward the 80-mark.

Lineup:

Japan: Kawashima, Uchida, Konno, Yoshida, Nagatomo, Yamaguchi, Hasebe, Honda, Okubo, Okazaki, Osako

Greece: Karnezis, Holebas, Sokratis, Manolas, Torosidis, Katsouranis, Maniatis, Kone, Samaras, Mitroglou (Gekas 35′), Fetfatzidis (Karagounis 42′)

Numbers to know: 

76 – The percentage of possession Japan had in the first half.

14 – The number of passes Katsouranis was credited with before being sent off, a team high. Six Japanese players bested that mark.

2 – The number of shots on goal Japan had. Greece’s total? Also two.

Questions for the second half:

  • When will Japan push? Greece is still a threat on the counter, but with his team given a half to play up a man, Alberto Zaccheroni should start thinking goal difference. One goal will probably be enough to take full points, but this is a chance for Japan to turn the first tiebreaker in their favor.

Colombia has little trouble seeing Greece off, 3-0

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It wasn’t as thrilling as Netherlands’ 5-1 victory over Spain, and it wasn’t quite as pretty as Chile beating Australia 3-1, but watching Colombia beat Greece 3-0 on Saturday was still quite fun. Colombia’s back line will likely not be able to stop the top teams at the World Cup, but their offense certainly had no trouble slicing through Greece’s vaunted defense.

In the pre-match press conference, Fernando Santos insisted that defending was not the most important element of the Greece national team. Good thing, too, because after just five minutes, Colombia had taken the lead.

Juan Cuadrado, showing all the pace that prompted Fiorentina fans to dub the winger “Vespa”, zipped up the right to latch on to a through-ball. Cuadrao then sent a low cross into the area, looking, it seemed, for James Rodríguez. But the midfielder pulled off the perfect dummy, confusing the Greek defenders and, possibly his own teammate Pablo Armero. Armero got a touch to the ball, but had little power behind it. No matter – it deflected off Kostas Manolas and began rolling toward the back of the net. Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis could only watch in horror as the ball crossed the line.

Greece had no choice but to get forward in defiance of all stereotypes thrown at them since 2004. To almost everyone’s surprise, they very nearly equalized immediately – possibly because Colombia were still pondering the choreography of the full-squad dance party they’d hosted after the goal. But Georgios Samaras sent his shot wide, and Colombia escaped.

As Colombia slowed down, taking for granted that they had control of the match, Greece pushed harder and harder. But despite being able to slip easily enough behind the cafeteros defense, Greece just couldn’t put their shots on target. The best shot of the half came just before the whistle, when Panagiotis Kone pounced on a loose ball to put in a sharp shot. David Ospina pushed it aside, however, and Colombia went into the second half up 1-0.

After the restart, the Pirate Ship continued its leisurely path toward goal, but were soon undone once more by Colombia. In the 58th minute, James whipped in a corner, and Abel Aguilar got a touch. Teófilo Gutiérrez, totally unmarked, got a toe on it, chipping the ball over Karnezis to put Colombia up 2-0.

Greece had a terrific chance to equalize five minutes later, with Colombia’s defense completely caught out. Giannis Fetfatzidis, whose fresh legs replaced the aging limbs of Dimitris Salpingidis shortly before Colombia’s second goal, was free at the far post. He headed on to Theofanis Gekas who, despite being less than twenty feet out, smacked his header against the crossbar.

Gekas reward was to be replaced moments later by Kostas Mitroglou.

The changes mattered little for Greece, however. Instead, Colombia put in an insurance goal just before the final whistle – and a lovely one at that. James slipped easily through two Greek defenders to get on the end of a backheeled pass. Karnezis got a hand to it, but could only help it along into the back of the net.

Should Ivory Coast and Japan make even greater fools of Greece, that extra goal could come in handy for determining Group C’s rankings come the end of this round.

[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

LINEUPS

Columbia: Ospina; Zuniga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero (Arias 73); Sanchez, Aguilar; Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Ibarbo; Gutierrez (Martinez 75)

Goals: Armero 5′; Gutierrez 58′; Rodriguez 90′

Greece: Kamezis; Manolas, Torosidis, Papastathopolous, Holebas; Maniatis, Kone (Karagounis 78), Katsouranis; Salpingidis (Fetfatzidis 57), Gekas (Mitroglou 63), Samaras

At halftime: Colombia lead Greece 1-0 (FOLLOW LIVE)

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Story of the half: Colombia’s early goal forced Greece to abandon any lingering plans of putting ten men behind the ball. And after los cafeteros took their foot off the gas a bit, Greece were able to threaten – although their finishing certainly leaves something to be desired. Still, the Pirate Ship was at least being steered in the right direction.

Let’s be honest, though – the real story of that half was Colombia’s goal celebration.

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Goals:

5′: An absolutely lovely goal from…Pablo Armero? That’s right, the Napoli left-back who spent half a season on loan at West Ham is the one that opened Colombia’s World Cup account. The blistering pace of Juan Cuadrado saw him past the Greece defense, allowing the Fiorentina man to slip a low cross inside the area. A fantastic dummy from James Rodríguez allowed Armero to make contact. He didn’t hit the ball very hard, but it took a deflection off Kostas Manolas and slowly trickled its way into the back of the net.

Other key moments:

3′: Greece make a break for it! Not even five minutes have passed and they’re across the halfway line, which may well be some sort of record.

5′: Giannis Maniatis has a go, but David Ospina is there

5′: GOAL

6′: Greece very nearly equalize immediately, but Giorgos Samaras manages to place his shot just wide. That sure cut short the Colombians’ dancing.

17: A perfect challenge from Sokratis is all that prevents Colombia from getting what certainly would’ve been a second goal, after Juan Cuadrado and Teófilo Gutiérrez exchange passes to get them inside the area.

18′: James sends in a shot from distance, but Orestis Karnezis had no trouble collecting

26′: Yellow card shown to Colombia’s Carlos Sanchez for a foul on Giorgos Samaras, who executed a lovely barrel roll.

27′:  Vasilis Torosidis gets his head on the end of a well-delivered free kick, but it flies just wide.

37′: James tries what well might have been a spectacular volley – if only it hadn’t ended up in the 20th row.

45′: The best effort for Greece comes from Panagiotis Kone, who jumps on a loose ball, sending in a sharp shot that Ospina has to palm away.

LINEUPS

Columbia: Ospina; Zuniga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero; Sanchez, Aguilar; Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Ibarbo; Gutierrez

Goals: Armero 5′

Greece: Kamezis; Manolas, Torosidis, Papastathopolous, Holebas; Maniatis, Kone, Katsouranis; Salpingidis, Gekas, Samaras

Question(s) for the second half:

  • Can Greece keep up with Colombia? – At 29, Samaras is the youngest of Greece’s front line. Dimitris Salpingidis is 32, Theofanis Gekas and Kostas Katsouranis are 34. After just 20 minutes, they already looked as though they were wilting. Of course, they do have Kostas Mitroglou on the bench.
  • Will Colombia be able to get back in control? – Greece may have been wilting, but after Colombia took their foot off the gas, they fought back, getting themselves into dangerous positions behind the cafeteros defense. Colombia will need to do more to truly convince.