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Soccer

Costa Rica, Greece are Newcomers to World Cup Knockout Stage

Costa Rica World Cup

Ian Walton – Getty Images

If you are scratching your head trying to think of the last time Costa Rica and Greece last competed in a World Cup knockout game, don’t feel bad.

This is only Costa Rica’s second appearance in a Round of 16 contest at the World Cup. You have to go all the way back to 1990 to find the first and only other time this country competed in a knockout round game.

Meanwhile, Greece is in the knockout round for the first time. They qualified for the World Cup only two other times prior to this tournament, once in 2010 and the other time in 1994.

Not only are these teams new to the World Cup knockout stage for the most part, they are seeing each other for the first time.

Costa Rica began the World Cup with a 3-1 win over Uruguay and then battled Italy in a tense 1-0 victory. The team finished out the group round with a 0-0 tie against England, which enabled Costa Rica to clinch first place in Group D.

To say “that wasn’t how it was supposed to happen” is an understatement. Costa Rica shocked the soccer world with its Group D performance. Then again, what in this World Cup hasn’t been a shock? We aren’t even through the full knockout round yet and this has already been one of the more memorable World Cup tournaments in recent memory.

Greece ran the gamut of emotions in its Group C games. It started with a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of Colombia, but the fortunes improved with a 0-0 tie against Japan and the team closed strong with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast.

Prediction: Costa Rica – 1, Greece – 0 (penalty kicks)

Look for Greece’s fortunes to run out here. Neither team has scored many goals in this tournament, with Costa Rica only finding net four times to Greece’s two. Both teams compare favorably in terms of offense, but Greece may be hobbling a bit on defense, as Panagiotis Kone has a hamstring issue that could keep him out of Sunday’s game.

Meanwhile, there are no issues with Costa Rica, as Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz and the rest of the team are ready to prove this was no fluke. Costa Rica should reach the quarterfinals in a suspenseful showdown.