RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — If Costa Rica midfielder Michael Barrantes believes his small Central American country's national side is favored to reach the World Cup quarterfinals, he's not about to say so publicly.
"We're not favorites. We're going to face off with a great team. Greece is a great team. They have the merits to belong" in the second round, Barrantes said Saturday, on the eve of the Ticos' second round match against Greece.
"We came here as a dark horse," Barrantes added. "We surprised the world."
Costa Rica entered the World Cup as a long-shot simply to advance out of Group D, which also included former world champions England, Italy and Uruguay. Instead, the Ticos won the group ahead of Uruguay — a side Costa Rica defeated 3-1 — while Italy and England were eliminated.
Greece, meanwhile, did not score in its first two World Cup games and required a penalty in injury time to beat Ivory Coast 2-1 and finish second in Group C.
In the days immediately after Greece clinched its spot against Costa Rica, some of the team openly accepted the notion that their recent form made them the favorites.
Apparently, Costa Rico's Colombian coach, Jorge Luis Pinto, decided such talk was not in his side's best interest, and the tune has changed.
"We will give to Greece all the respect it deserves," Pinto said. "It is a team that can indeed defend well and can score goals, and it's difficult to control them."
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