In the World Cup’s round of 16, there are no 0-0 ties, no calculating points from past games, and no scoreboard-watching to find out if you can back into the quarterfinals. It’s the win-or-go-home elimination style American sports fans love. Beginning June 28, the knockout round will put host Brazil in jeopardy against a very dangerous Chile squad, but that story is the only the beginning.
Teams from the Americas have risen to the top of the world football food chain in the 2014 World Cup. So far, European titans Italy (ranked ninth by FIFA), Portugal (ranked fourth), Spain (first), and England (tenth) have already departed the tournament. (It would have reasonable to predict all four teams ending up in the quarterfinals.) This World Cup has a captivating Cinderella story waiting to be told. Here are three must-see matches that may write the next chapter in the elimination round of 16.
3. Costa Rica vs. Greece: Sunday, June 29
Neither Greece nor Costa Rica has ever made it to the World Cup quarterfinals, but by the end of their June 29 match, one will take the monumental step onto the world stage. Few predicted Costa Rica even making the round of 16. The Ticos breezed through a group that included Italy, England, and Uruguay (a runner-up “Group of Death,” if you will) while only giving up one goal in three contests. After lacerating Uruguay 3-1 and shutting out Italy 1-0, Greece may seem like a cakewalk for FIFA’s twenty-eighth ranked team in the world.
Greece did not impress many football fans in the group stage, qualifying with a win in its final match against Côte d’Ivoire. Earlier, Greece endured a 3-0 shellacking at the hands of Colombia and tied Japan in a game that was short on thrills. Can it rekindle the magic that earned the team FIFA’s No. 12 ranking prior to the World Cup? If not, Costa Rica’s magical run will continue. Talk about a fighter punching above its weight.