Costa Rica v Greece Preview

Round of 16 | Sunday 29 June | Arena Pernambuco, Recife | 22:00




Sunday’s late game brings us the most low profile round of 16 encounters with surprise package Costa Rica coming up against another unlikely qualifier in Greece. The Ticos and Greeks are both teams that have ridden a strong defence to World Cup qualification and kept that solidity to help them qualify out of their respective groups. But unlike Greece, Costa Rica has discovered an offense in Brazil.

To Win (90mins)
Costa Rica 31/20
Draw 2/1
Greece 18/10

COSTA RICA

Costa Rica finished first in what many considered the World Cup's toughest group after a dour 0-0 draw against a second-string England side in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Costa Rica only needed a draw to top Group D and played that way, setting up in a defensive 5-3-2 formation.

The result gave Costa Rica its best World Cup performance, winning a group that contained three former world champions.

While the Ticos reached the knockout stages in 1990, they finished second in a weaker group.

In authoring one of the most compelling stories in Brazil so far, Costa Rica were terrific in becoming the first CONCACAF nation ever to beat the four-time champions Italy at a World Cup, 1-0 in Recife.

In their opening match they were pitted against the feisty Uruguayans who were without Luis Suarez and demolished them 3-1.

Costa Rica have not conceded a goal in open play during the tournament and looking at the Greece attack compared to that of the likes of Uruguay, Italy and England, the Central Americans will be confident of earning a clean sheet here.

Costa Rica go into this match as favourites and should go back to playing at a fast tempo, pressing their opponents as they did against Uruguay and Italy.

They employ an attractive attacking mentality – zipping the ball around at pace, coupled with a superb work ethic and defending in numbers.

Campbell has been their star, scoring in that 3-1 win against Edinson Cavani and co while putting in a more disciplined and resolute shift against the Italians.

GREECE

Georgios Samaras scored an injury-time penalty to send Greece into the second round of the World Cup for the first time in their history with a win over Ivory Coast, eliminating the Africans in the process.

Samaras was tripped in the area by substitute Giovanni Sio, and calmly slotted in the spot kick for a win that pits Greece against the lowest ranked group winner in the round of 16.

The Greeks had taken the lead just before halftime through substitute Andreas Samaris, who punished Ivorian Ismael Tiote for a careless pass backward, which was followed by Wilfried Bony's 74th-minute equaliser.

The Greeks looked pitiful in their first two matches — a 3-0 loss to Colombia and a scoreless tie with Japan.

However, against the Africans they attacked with more pace and managed more shots than in either of their opening two games—13 compared with nine against Japan and 11 against Colombia.

Notably, they attempted nine shots in the second half, their previous high for a half having been the six shots attempted in the first half against Colombia.

Lazaros Christodoulopoulos' inclusion in the starting line-up added verve and dynamism to Greece's counter-attacking.

Samaris' arrival as a substitute in place of the injured Panagiotis Kone was, of course, significant in that he scored, but Greece looked better with him in the side even before his goal.

The increase in the pace of their counter-attacks was crucial to the threat they posed. Giorgos Karagounis—making his first start in this World Cup, having been a substitute in both of Greece's opening fixtures—was quietly effective.

Also making his World Cup debut was back-up keeper Panagiotis Glykos. All this indicated that Fernando Santos may not have truly outstanding first-choice talent at his disposal in many areas of the pitch; and perhaps only Greece's centre-halves would be likely to make an impression on any "team of the tournament" so far.

However, there is good cover—and some fine options for making tactical changes when needed—across the midfield and up front.

Betting PredictionDRAW 2/1
Costa Rica have been the more consistent team so far and are more dangerous going forward. However, Greece’s priority going into any match is always on their defending and they will look to give another disciplined display here while trying to score on the counter. Costa Rica should enjoy more possession but will have to be at their best to breach the Greek defence. The draw looks the best bet. 

Written by Wayde Dorkin for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now! 

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