World Cup

World Cup: Costa Rica advances by defeating Greece on penalty kicks

Costa Rica defeats Greece on penalty kicks, 5-3, to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time

Until the past few weeks, Costa Rica was noted largely for such charms as its butterflies (more than 1,000 species), life expectancy (79 years) and standing army (non-existent).

Add soccer to the list. The team from a nation of fewer than five million -- people, not butterflies -- continues to hang with the sport's royalty, like a party crasher who endears himself to the invited guests. A triumph over Greece, by a 5-3 margin in a penalty kick shootout, elevated Costa Rica into the elite eight against the Netherlands on Friday.

And the World Cup continues to lead a charmed life. A rarity in Brazil -- boring game, with scattered bouts of excitement -- was infused late with large doses of drama. Both Sunday matches, in fact, turned on goals in stoppage time.

One hour in, Costa Rica could not have dreamed of a more propitious situation.

It had just seized the lead on Bryan Ruiz's roller from the penalty box boundary, a consequence of unusual miscommunication by the normally suffocating Greek defense. It had not allowed a goal since early in the group play opener. Greece had scrounged out only two goals in the tournament.

Suddenly, everything changed. The table that was set for a Costa Rican win toppled when its defender, Oscar Duarte, received a yellow card for tripping. It was his second card-worthy infraction and he was expelled, giving the Greeks a one-man edge.

It took them until extra time to pull even. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas' desperate save bounded directly to Sokratis. The centerback who goes by only his first name -- the family name is Papastathopoulos -- was unhurried as he wound up and scored.

Overtime seemed to favor the Greeks, what with their outnumbered adversaries dragging. But, in between a barrage of Greece chances that included a botched 5-on-2 fast break, Costa Rica countered enough times to necessitate a shootout to untangle the 1-1 tie.

Greece had someone sent off before the penalty kicks phase, but it was harmless. Coach Fernando Santos was ordered off the sideline after an argument with referee Benjamin Williams of Australia. If Santos obeyed, he might be grateful, having missed the conclusion of a match that his side should have owned.

Blessedly for Costa Rica, a shootout involves no running. After mustering only seven shots in the entire game (compared to 23 for Greece), it knocked in all five PKs past Orestis Karnezis.

Greece bagged its first three. Then Navas guessed correctly against Theofanis Gekas, a substitute forward. The save, followed by a score from Michael Umana, sent the country of butterflies, old folks and no militia into the quarterfinals.

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