Costa Rica reject favourites tag ahead of Greece

Costa Rica's Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto speaks to the press at the end of a training session at the Vila Belmiro Stadium in Santos during the 2014 FIFA World Cup football tournament on June 26, 2014

Coach Jorge Luis Pinto fought to maintain Costa Rica's underdog status Friday as they prepare to face Greece in the last 16 on Sunday. The central Americans upset the odds in Group D by remaining unbeaten against three former world champions to top the pool and earn a second round meeting with the Group C runners-up. But although Pinto is happy to have put Costa Rica back on the footballing map for the first time since they last made the knock-out rounds at a World Cup, in Italy 1990, he insisted it would be amiss to start viewing 'Los Ticos' as favourites. "Now everyone knows Costa Rica, they know what we're capable of," said the 61-year-old Colombian. "I don't know if we want to be favourites. We don't feel like favourites. We'll give it our all. "Our results have given us confidence and stability, they demonstrate what we're worth. "We're well prepared physically and we'll give our all, with the same respect that we confronted the three world champions." Costa Rica caused a stir in the pool phase, beating Uruguay 3-1 and Italy 1-0 before holding England to a 0-0 draw in a group in which many thought they would provide nothing but cannon fodder. Now, though, they tackle the 2004 European champions who looked destined for elimination before their final group match when a 2-1 victory over Ivory Coast sent them into the knock-out stages. Having been thumped 3-0 by Colombia in their opening game, Greece then held on with 10 men to a 0-0 draw with Japan, a result that left them knowing that a win in their final match could be enough, as it so proved, to progress. Had they lost to Japan, although they wouldn't have been out, they would have needed more than the single goal victory they managed against the Elephants to maintain their interest in the competition. While few would doubt that Greece are inferior to Costa Rica's previous three opponents, it is hard to view either side as a clear favourite in Recife on Sunday. But equally, both sides have earnt the right to be taken seriously. Greece's Portuguese coach Fernando Santos, for one, says his side won't be taking Costa Rica lightly. "We'll study them. We're going to have to be careful, they won the 'group of death'. For that reason we can't underestimate them," he said. Uruguay, Italy and England perhaps did exactly that and it proved costly. Now it's Greece's turn to see if they can learn from the lessons of others.

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