One epic night, minute by minute
RECIFE, Brazil -- 4:31 p.m.: Costa Rica and Greece are on the field for their warm ups. A pessimist would call the Arena Pernambuco half-empty. An optimist would say at least the other half doesn't have to watch this game.
4:36 p.m.: It's kind of adorable that the Greeks practice taking shots.
4:53 p.m.: Anthems.
5:00 p.m.: The starting whistle blows. "This is an opportunity for us to go on and create history," Greek manager Fernando Santos said before the game. They already have. Something just happened right on time in Brazil.
5:03 p.m.: The Greeks make their opening strike at goal, sailing a long shot wide. Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, am I right? No, seriously. Is that right?
5:08 p.m.: The Costa Ricans have their first sustained run after Australian referee Benjamin Williams plays the advantage. He looks determined to put his whistle away and keep this game going. Benjamin Williams is a sadist.
5:11 p.m.: Christodoulopoulos takes another shot wide.
5:17 p.m.: The impatient semi-crowd unloads its first whistles of derision.
5:37 p.m.: Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas makes a terrific kick save on a close-range attempt by Dimitrios Salpingidis. If this game goes into extra time, I will curse the name Keylor Navas to my grave.
5:42 p.m.: The Greeks are awarded a free kick just outside the 18-yard box after Oscar Duarte earns a yellow for bringing down Christodoulopoulos. It's a dangerous location but Navas claims the slow, curling shot easily. A window to a different, less-excruciating future closes forever.
5:47 p.m.: The halftime whistle blows. The crowd jeers. At least the sprinklers are on. Talk about action.
6:05 p.m.: The game resumes. One of these teams is an eternity away from the World Cup quarterfinals.
6:07 p.m.: We're treated to our first significant bout of writhing after Yeltsin Tejeda takes down Greek captain Georgios Karagounis. Yellow card.
6:10 p.m.: More whistling from the crowd.
6:12 p.m.: GOAL, LOS TICOS! In the 52nd minute, Bryan Ruiz directs a low cross into the right side of the goal. There are wild celebrations on the field and in the stands. Costa Rica, the smallest country by population remaining in the World Cup, might knock out Greece, the largest country by appetite for tedium.
6:14 p.m.: Sadist referee Williams "misses" a Greek handball inside the box. Costa Rica could have had an insurmountable lead, given that the Greeks have scored twice in the entire tournament.
6:16 p.m.: Costa Rican reserve Oscar Granados receives a rare yellow card on the bench, perhaps for falling back to sleep.
6:21 p.m.: Quite a World Cup for CONCACAF. We might have witnessed a Mexico-Costa Rica quarterfinal if Arjen Robben of the Netherlands hadn't been tragically shot in the dying seconds of Sunday's earlier match.
6:26 p.m.: OH NO! Duarte receives his second yellow card for tripping Jose Cholevas (yes, he plays for Greece) and is gone from the game. The Costa Ricans are down to 10 men. This match is far from over. I warned you about Benjamin Williams.
6:32 p.m.: Konstantinos Manolas gets a yellow card for hacking down Joel Campbell. The Costa Ricans ask for a red. The crowd pleads for it. No such luck.
6:34 p.m.: The Greeks are really pressing. Well, their version of pressing.
6:39 p.m.: Karagounis takes a long free kick at goal that could best be described as "sub-orbital."
6:41 p.m.: Just eight minutes of regulation separate Costa Rica from history and the rest of us from freedom.
6:45 p.m.: Greece still can't muster a reasonable attempt on goal despite their man advantage.
6:49 p.m.: Five minutes of stoppage time. This is an outrage.
6:50 p.m.: Oh for the love of Go-um, GOAL! GOAL FOR GREECE! In the 91st minute, Navas makes a valiant save off Theofanis Gekas but Sokratis Papastathopoulos buries the rebound. 1-1! Heartbreak for the Costa Ricans, and those of us doomed to watch extra time.
6:52 p.m.: NAVAS WITH A BEAUTIFUL YET GAME-EXTENDING SAVE OFF KONSTANTINOS MITROGLOU'S HEADER. I AM SO CONFLICTED!
6:54 p.m.: What might have been the final whistle instead signals another 30 minutes of agony. Two of the three Greek goals in this tournament have come in second-half stoppage time -- first to advance to the Round of 16 over the Ivory Coast, and now to push Costa Rica to the brink of elimination. Only 11 million of the more than seven billion people on the planet see this as anything but cruel.
7:04 p.m.: Here we go: 30 more minutes. Universe, how you spoil us!
7:08 p.m.: Gekas with a chance but he puts the header wide. Costa Rica will only withstand this attack if Greece keeps finishing like Greece.
7:13 p.m.: Now the Greeks really are pressing -- by any definition of the word. The Costa Rican 10 are barely hanging on.
7:17 p.m.: The lone Costa Rican foray of extra time (so far) is rebuffed.
7:19 p.m.: The first half of extra time comes to an end. This game looks destined for either a Greek win or a shootout. Only time will tell which immovable object will emerge victorious.
7:21 p.m.: Williams blows his whistle to start the second half of extra time. Once again, that's referee Benjamin Williams of Australia.
7:23 p.m.: Navas comes out to corral a long ball nicely, then feigns calamitous injury to leak a few more seconds off the interminable clock.
7:28 p.m.: The Costa Ricans earn a corner. They look too tired to decide who should take it. The ball curls into the box and ... the entire team falls down.
7:29 p.m.: And Greece counters! Five attackers on two defenders! Navas makes another diving stop, again on Christodoulopoulos ... If Los Ticos somehow survive this, Navas deserves whatever really big prize Costa Rica gives its most honored citizens. A nation-carrying performance by the keeper.
7:35 p.m.: The entire Costa Rican bench is on the sideline, urging their exhausted teammates to stand tall. Just two more minutes. Just two --
7:36 p.m.: Now the crowd whistles not in derision, but in mercy.
7:37 p.m.: Navas makes yet another sprawling save!
7:38 p.m.: Williams finally blows his whistle one last time, 1-1. The Costa Ricans celebrate. The Greeks fall down to the grass. They had the man advantage for more than 50 minutes and still managed to score only once -- against little Costa Rica. Even a long night of lousy football can gift you with an amazing scene. Somehow there is life in this game yet, and at last it feels only seconds away from being something like beautiful.
7:45 p.m.: Penalties.
7:46 p.m.: Every last person in this once-cynical stadium has found their feet. There are four lines of players: one at each bench, and two at the center of the pitch. Arms have been draped around every shoulder.
7:47 p.m.: Costa Rica to take first. Celso Borges. Orestis Karnezis takes his place in the middle of the temporarily Greek goal. Borges bounces the ball before he places it on the spot. Right down the throat. 1-0.
7:48 p.m.: Mitroglou for Greece. Strikes it calmly to his left. 1-1.
7:49 p.m.: Ruiz for Costa Rica. Clincal. 2-1.
7:50 p.m.: Christodoulopoulos. No joke. 2-2.
7:51 p.m.: Giancarlo Gonzalez. Karnezis guesses correctly but the ball sails over him. 3-2.
7:52 p.m.: Cholevas. Navas guesses right, too, but the shot is too strong for him to reach. 3-3.
7:53 p.m.: Joel Campbell lines up. He looks spent, as though it's hard for him even to stand. A long stuttering run -- and he slides it home, more of a pass than a shot, inside the post and into the net, 4-3.
7:54 p.m.: Gekas. Navas waves his long arms and dances on his line. Left, right, left, and now to his right -- he dives. A SAVE. A ONE-HANDED SAVE! Gekas pulls his soaked jersey over his face in disbelief. Navas, blessed Navas, gets to his feet the hero, the hero, and the hero once again, 4-3. It remains 4-3.
7:55 p.m.: Now Michael Umana. For the win. For everything. On a suddenly epic night, these thousands of fans -- these anxious, lucky ones -- are silent in their rapture. Navas is on his knees at the side of the box. Karnezis digs in, edges, creeps, wonders. He waits. Umana makes his run. He doesn't look at his target. He stares down at the ball. It's all right there. Fate is at his feet. One leg plants. The other recoils. Karnezis makes his choice. He begins to shift, to go down, to his right. Umana, nearing history, fearing history, pours himself into the shot.
7:56 p.m.: Costa Rica wins.