On Sunday, Costa Rica face Greece in the Round of 16 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The fact that both of these teams have made it this far has surprised many, but that has been the nature of this World Cup. Costa Rica finished top of a group including England, Italy and Uruguay. They have performed extremely well in this tournament and have deserved their place in the last 16. Greece reached the last 16 in dramatic fashion. Georgios Samaras converted a last minute penalty against Ivory Coast to go through at the expense of their opponents. The Greeks got through their group with four points and on paper Costa Rica is one of the easier opponents in the last 16. However, with the way things have been going in this tournament this game will not be easy for Greece at all.
Neither team has any team news worries going into the game. Costa Rica have for the most part stayed the same during their previous three games. Andreas Samaris could start after his goal against the Ivory Coast.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams in their history. The Costa Rican’s have reached the Round of 16 for the first time since 1990. This is only the Greek’s third World Cup Final’s campaign, and it is the first time they have ever got out of the group stages. Both teams have only scored two goals in the tournament. Greece have only scored in one of their three games. In fact, Greece have only scored in two of their nine games in the World Cup. Whichever team goes through will make history, as both nations have never reached the quarter finals before. If Costa Rica make it through, it will be the furthest that a team from the CONCACAF region has ever gone.
Joel Campbell is the creative spark in this Costa Rican team. The Arsenal striker, who spent last season on loan at Olympiacos, has been a household name in his country for a few years. The forward had some work permit issues when he first joined Arsenal, but that is not the case now as he has become a regular international for Costa Rica. During this tournament, he has managed to both score and contribute assists. Both of these came in the opening group game where the Costa Ricans defeated Uruguay. Playing in the last 16 should give Campbell some desire to influence the game and raise his profile even further. Arsene Wenger has said that Campbell will return to Arsenal this summer. There is no better place for him to showcase his talent and impress his manager going into preseason.
Georgios Samaras has been an important player in his international side for a number of years. Despite this, he has not been very prolific only scoring nine goals in 77 appearances. Three of these goals have come at tournaments, showing he has the capacity to effect games at this level. The Greek forward has spent his last six years at Celtic, but has become a free agent this summer. Before that Samaras plied his trade in the Premier League at Manchester City during a two year spell. Samaras managed 11 goals in all competitions for Celtic this season. He has become a more flexible player, and often finds himself on the wing for club and country.Now he is a free agent, Samaras has the chance to put himself in the shop window and secure an employer. Samaras kept his cool against Ivory Coast to score a last minute penalty to take his country through to the next stage. It is that wealth of experience that the Greek forward has to call upon going into the last 6. Samaras has enjoyed many Champions League campaigns for Celtic, including some forays into the last 16 of that competition. If Samaras does get a chance against Costa Rica, he will be confident in putting it away.
With this World Cup being full of so much drama, it is hard to say who will triumph in this game. Although they have shown quality in order to get to this stage, both teams remain somewhat unknown quantities. The Costa Rican’s have the advantage as group winners and being undefeated in the competition so far. They will have a lot of confidence going into the fixture, but at this stage of the competition it becomes a lottery. I predict a 2-1 Costa Rica win.