After staying in Recife following the USA vs Germany game, I managed to go an entire 5 days without an internal flight, meaning I was refreshed ready for my first round of 16 match, Costa Rica vs Greece.
I arrived at the ground early to avoid any delays on the road incase of a repeat of the bad weather during the last match, I chose my position behind the goal that Costa Rica would attack first.
Fans of the two teams were there in small numbers, with neither of them expected to progress past the group stages, meaning the majority of supporters were from Brazil. One Greece fan couldn’t handle the heat…
The game started and as expected it lacked the quality of some of the other R16 matches on offer, but I had the opportunity to get some stuff on Arsenal striker Joel Campbell, expected to finally play a part this year after playing on loan elsewhere for 2 seasons.
Thankfully the weather was much better than my last visit here, with no rain at all and nice clear skies as the sun set. Good weather makes our job so much easier.
Costa Rica took the lead early in the second half through Bryan Ruiz, unfortunately at the other end from me but I soon had some action in front of me as Oscar Duarte committed a second bookable offence and was shown a red card, leaving Costa Rica to play the majority of the second period with ten men. Greece took control of the match and began to create chances but couldn’t find a way past goalkeeper Keylor Navas until the 90th minute when Sokratis Papastathopoulos scored a dramatic equaliser, sending the game into extra time.
Both teams appeared to struggle with fatigue during the extra time but it was Costa Rica who went closest to scoring a winning goal with an acrobatic effort by Giancarlo Gonzalez, but alas no further goals arrived and the match went to penalties.
With a FIFA official coming round during extra time notifying us that the penalties were to be held at our end of the stadium, I chose to stay in my seat whilst other photographers moved to the other side of the goalmouth.
The first 7 penalties were all dispatched with aplomb but there’s always a hero and a villian and up stepped man of the match Keylor Navas to keep out the strike from Theofanis Gekas.
Penalty shootouts provide great reactions from teams as they watch on the halfway line, and it was no different on this occasion, the Costa Ricans choosing to kneel as a team provided something different. Their reactions as they waited for the final penalty to be taken was great, with none of them watching the goalmouth.
It was left to Michael Umaña to score the winning spot kick and send the Costa Ricans through to a quarter final meeting with the Netherlands…surely a step too far for the minnows?
Meanwhile the villian of the piece Theofanis Gekas showed how much his miss meant to him, his team mates having to comfort him as he left the field afterwards.
Another match down and I’m now in Salvador having flown in this morning ready for Belgium vs USA…hopefully more drama awaits.