Goalie Navas keeps the Costa Rican dream alive
COSTA Rica's World Cup journey will continue into new territory, led by the man at the back.
Goalkeeper Keylor Navas made several crucial saves to send Costa Rica to the quarter-finals of the soccer tournament for the first time. He saved a shot from Greece's Konstantinos Mitroglou in the final seconds yesterday, before stopping Theofanis Gekas' penalty in the shootout after the match finished 1-1.
"Navas was the main protagonist," Greek coach Fernando Santos said after his last match in charge of the European team. "He avoided three or four goals. Two of them were very good moments. Obviously, he has to be congratulated. If it wasn't for that, the result would have been different."
The teams finished extra time tied at 1-1, with a last- minute goal from Sokratis Papastathopoulos in regulation time evening the match after Bryan Ruiz's opener.
While Los Ticos made all their penalties, Navas stopped Gekas' attempt and the Central Americans advanced 5-3 in Recife, Brazil. They will meet the Netherlands in Salvador on Saturday.
Following the final whistle, thousands took to the streets in Costa Rica, with the Rotonda de la Hispanidad roundabout in the capital San Jose the major focus of celebration.
President Luis Guillermo Solis posted a picture on Twitter of himself surrounded by a group wearing the country's red, white and blue colours.
"To the entire people in Costa Rica, those at home and those on the streets, this is for you," the team's Colombian coach, Jorge Luis Pinto, told reporters after the game. "We will continue fighting. We are ambitious, we want to grow and move forward."
Costa Rica, ranked 28th in the world, started the tournament as an underdog to get out of the group stage, where it bettered three former World Cup winners: England, Italy and Uruguay. It qualified for the second round after the first two games, following a 1-0 win over Italy, and finished top of the group.
Those matches were watched by as many as 7,000 supporters.
By kickoff against Greece, most had gone home as they had not planned for the team to progress.
Ruiz scored his second goal of the World Cup with only his third shot of the tournament when he rolled the ball past a static Orestis Karnezis in goal for Greece. The match turned when Duarte received a second yellow card in the 65th minute and Greece pinned Costa Rica back.
Just after the 90th minute, Papastathopoulos hit a rebound which Navas had blocked from Gekas. Greece failed to take advantage of its extra man and could not beat Navas again.
His save off Gekas during the shootout set up Michael Umana to score the winning penalty, sparking a rush to the goal by the Costa Rican bench and players.
Navas, who was named man of the match, dedicated the win to his family. "In such a beautiful sport as football, I try to make my kids happy so when they look back they can see a father that did good things for his country," he said.