BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- An English journalist phoned the Toronto Sun before the World Cup in an effort to reach TFC striker Jermain Defoe, who at that time was still very much on England's World Cup bubble.Follow @SlamSports
A 20-minute conversation eventually rolled over into World Cup talk, including England's chances of getting out of Group D, containing Italy, Uruguay and some other team nobody cared about.
"Costa Rica is going to surprise someone in that group," I told him, naming a few players he should watch out for.
By surprise, I meant the tiny Central American nation might steal a draw against one of the aforementioned three sides. Not emerge top of a group containing three former world champs.
Now, that same Costa Rican side that before the tournament was just a speck is set to battle for a place in the World Cup quarterfinals against Greece on Sunday in Recife.
Any way you slice it, one of these teams is about to venture into the last eight at a World Cup for the first time in history.
"We have to think realistically, but we have to think big," Costa Rica manager Jorge Luis Pinto said, according to FIFA. "But first things first, let's concentrate on Greece first and try to win that."
Greece, on the other hand, is just lucky to be here. After being blown out by Colombia in its Group C opener, all appeared lost.
And, until the last minute against the Ivory Coast last week, the Greeks were toast. That's when their African opponents gifted them a late penalty that saw Georgios Samaras send Greece through from the spot.
With just two goals scored, and a minus-2 goal difference, Greece managed to advance.
It also didn't do much to dispel rumours that the former European champs are solely focused on defending.
"I can but laugh as it is a joke," Greece bench boss Fernando Santos said, according to FIFA. "In football one attacks and one defends. We know how to defend well and we are very good on the counter-attack."
In the end, this is a Greek team that's going to fight to win. They're experts at grinding out results even when they don't deserve to advance.
It's a side that is consistently inside the top 20 in the world, in terms of the FIFA rankings, yet are still considered pushovers despite showing they can compete with anyone.
While the stigma attached to this Greece side holds some weight, the objective is to win, not to impress fans who prefer to be entertained.
And if there's one thing Greece understands, it's to never underestimate a team that's rarely picked to win.
"We have to pay a lot of attention to this game, (Costa Rica) came out top in the 'Group of Death,' Pinto told FIFA here in Brazil."As a result, we cannot allow ourself to underestimate them."
Anyone inside CONCACAF understands the dangerous players the Ticos possess.
Costa Rica beat both the U.S. and Mexico during qualifying before going unbeaten in Group D.
A big part of its team is the man who pulls the strings in attacking midfield, Bryan Ruiz. Speedy forward Joel Campbell is also having a breakout tournament and currently plays his club ball in Greece.
The coastal city of Recife -- hot and sticky -- is also an environment the Central Americans thrive in, which could tip this match between fairly even sides in one direction.
"I've watched around 30 football matches from Greece, not just (Greece against) Colombia or Ivory Coast," Pinto said in a release. "We've done our homework into how they play and we have a wealth of information on the team and its players."
In what could be his last major tournament, Greek legend Giorgos Karagounis and the rest of his side will be flying into every tackle before looking to break out through Samaras.
The Costa Ricans have already insisted it’s crucial to score first on Sunday in an effort to open Greece up.
If the Ticos concede, look for Greece to drop numbers back in an effort to hold the fort.
This very well could simply come down to whether or not Costa Rica has any more surprises left in a locker room that has shocked the entire world, especially a few guys from England.
CANADIAN REFEREE AWARDED ANOTHER MATCH
Canadian assistant referee Joe Fletcher has been awarded another match at the FIFA World Cup following a pair of clean showings with his U.S.-based crew.
The World Cup's organizing committee announced Saturday that American MLS referee Mark Geiger will be in charge of France-Nigeria in a second-round match in Brasilia on Monday.
Fletcher and American assistant referee Sean Hurd will each be on a line with Iranian fourth official Alireza Faghani between the benches.
Fletcher, a Niagara Falls, Ont. native, was solid in his first two matches at this tournament, a Group C opener between Colombia and Greece followed by a Group B match between Spain and Chile.
Referees that perform well at the World Cup are typically awarded more high-profile matches.
Those that don't often don't receive games later in the tournament, or are sent him following a poor performance.