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Costa Rica’s Junior Diaz (left), and Uruguay’s Christian Stuani go for a header during the Group D World Cup soccer match between Uruguay and Costa Rica at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, June 14. (AP)
Dazzling Costa Rica upset Uruguay Colombia rout Greece in WC return

FORTALEZA, Brazil, June 14, (AFP): Costa Rica came from a goal down to beat Uruguay 3-1 in a huge World Cup upset Saturday as the Copa America champions suffered for the absence of star striker Luis Suarez. After Edinson Cavani gave the South Americans the lead from the penalty spot in the first half, Costa Rica roared back with two goals in three minutes from Joel Campbell and Oscar Duarte. With Liverpool star Suarez confined to the bench recovering from a knee injury, Costa Rica grabbed a third through substitute Marcos Urena to throw Group D, which also features England and Italy, wide open.
Uruguay’s Maxi Pereira was red-carded in injury time to compound his team’s misery.

Uruguay had the ball in the net after 15 minutes but Diego Godin’s effort was rightly ruled out for offside. German referee Felix Brych called it right again in the 22nd minute when defender Junior Diaz was penalised for hauling down Uruguay skipper Diego Lugano in the box. Up stepped Paris Saint-Germain striker Cavani to calmly bury the penalty to the right of Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas. It was Cavani’s 22nd goal in 63 internationals. Uruguay went close to a second goal in the closing moments of the first half when veteran striker Diego Forlan’s shot took a huge deflection which forced a back-pedalling Navas into a dramatic tip over.

In the 54th minute, Costa Rica were level with 21-year-old Campbell, who spent last season on loan at Olympiakos from Arsenal, firing in a superbly controlled drive from Cristian Gamboa’s cross. It got better three minutes later when Duarte dived bravely at the feet of Christian Stuanito to head in a free-kick for a 2-1 lead. Substitute Urena latched on to a fine pass by the influential Campbell in the 84th minute to make it 3-1 before Pereira became the first player sent off at these finals for a wild lunge on Campbell. In Belo Horizonte, Colombia celebrated their first World Cup appearance since 1998 with a deserved 3-0 win over Greece in a free-flowing display that showed their abundance of attacking talent even without top striker Radamel Falcao.

The South Americans made a blistering start with left back Pablo Amero scoring with a 5th minute deflected shot. Striker Teofilo Gutierrez extended their lead, stabbing home a 58th minute corner, and midfield James Rodriguez added a late third goal to seal the win. The Group C opener in Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Mineirao showed that Colombia remain a force to be reckoned with despite the injury to Falcao, which overshadowed their buildup to the tournament. “Greece are a defensive team, very strong but we have been very consistent and very patient and we were able to find our way towards goal,” man-of-the-match Rodriguez said.

“It is very early to say who is the favourite in the group. We are a strong team but the next two matches will be very difficult as well,” he added. Greece had plenty of chances themselves. In their best opportunity, veteran striker Fanis Gekas hit the bar with a header when it looked easier to score soon after Colombia’s second goal. Vassilis Torosidis put a header just wide, Panagiotis Kone saw a shot well saved and Giorgos Samaras struck just wide for the normally defence-minded Greeks, who were forced to attack after Colombia’s early goal. “The first five, ten minutes we had some difficulties. We were not focused enough,” Greece coach Fernando Santos said.

“After the (first) goal we did well, we controlled the match and could have gotten a draw,” he added. The result pumped up an already pulsating atmosphere among the majority Colombian crowd. The yellow-decked South American fans were thrilled at seeing their team back at football’s top table after being shut out since their great sides of 1990s. That joy was in evidence after Colombia’s first goal, when the players danced together in probably the most joyous celebration so far of the Brazil World Cup.

Defeat continued Greece’s dismal record of never keeping a clean sheet at a World Cup finals. They have never gone beyond the group stage either, so will be hoping Group C rivals Ivory Coast and Japan prove easier opponents. Armero’s early goal came after sustained pressure down the right wing, with a lucky deflection squeezing past keeper Orestis Karnezis. Three Colombian players looked offside but were deemed not interfering in play.

Gutierrez, with a heavy weight of expectations on his shoulders given Falcao’s absence, scored an easy goal after a corner had been flicked on. Then Rodriguez, who had looked lively throughout, hit a low shot in stoppage time to send the Colombian fans delirious. Throughout the game, the Colombians targeted Greek left back Jose Holebas, again and again finding space on the right flank. Greek forward Kostas Mitroglou came off the bench in the second half but was unable to provide Greece’s missing spark.


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