The weirdness of this World Cup can be summed up in a sentence: Little old Costa Rica, which won the Group of Tradition with three ex-champions (Uruguay, Italy, England), faces a team (Greece) that just won its second Cup game ever.
Fancy meeting them here.
Greece arrived in Brazil as a long shot, Costa Rica as an extra-long shot. One will bubble up the quarterfinals, and who could imagine the Costa Ricans favored in any match -- much less one in the knockout stage?
Their popgun offense has been more than sufficient. Since yielding a penalty kick in minute 24 of the opener, the defense has thrown a shutout.
The Greeks would prefer a different story line: Blanked in the first two games, their two goals in the latest -- one on a penalty kick in added time -- were a veritable explosion.
Greece might need every bit of 120-minutes plus, which would include overtime, to scratch against Costa Rica. In fact, a penalty kicks shootout to decide a scoreless tie is a plausible scenario, given how the Greeks pack their defense and wait to counter. They are slightly more inclined to go forward than their soccer ancestors, who often treated midfield as a geographical border that required a passport to traverse.
While neither side has reached the elite eight, Greece's trophy case is not bare. It includes the European Cup hardware from 2004.
Graybeard midfielders Giorgos Karagounis and Konstantinos Katsouranis are holdovers from the decade-old team who will try to rediscover the magic in a round of 16 matchup foreseen by nobody.