World Cup Blog: Costa Rica didn’t read the script
08:00 21 June 2014
World Cup Group D: Italy 0 Costa Rica 1
Costa Rica pulled off another shock at the 2014 World Cup and in the process confirmed England’s exit from the competition in the group stages as Bryan Ruiz scored the only goal of the game to defeat Italy.
The South Americans had surprised Uruguay last weekend and after this result and performance it may not be a shock to see them beat the Three Lions on Tuesday.
England’s 2-1 loss to Uruguay meant our hopes were in Italy hands. Roy Hodgson’s men were in desperate need of an Italian job but Costa Rica spoiled the party and deservedly so too.
Often underwhelming for Fulham, Ruiz didn’t disappoint in Recife and nodded the winner in the 44th minute to earn his nation an impressive win.
The header from Ruiz was excellent but the cross by Junior Diaz was even better, an exquisite curling delivery that fooled Gigi Buffon and the Italian defence.
The Italians were fooled all game and bar a few bright moments from Andrea Pirlo, they were never in control like they have come accustom too in big matches.
The tactics and unity of Jorge Luis Pinto’s side were wonderful and the latter was expressed when players and staff burst on to the pitch after the final whistle was blown when Costa Rica’s place in the knock-out phase was confirmed.
Straight from the off the Costa Ricans worked the Italians and stopped them from playing their normal game. It took the Azzurri 14 minutes to display the slick, incisive passing we expect and even that move ended abruptly.
Other than an early header over the bar from Celso Borges, the first effort of note came from Italy midway through the first period and it was during a five-minute spell where they briefly looked threatening.
Mario Balotelli wanted a kiss from her majesty the Queen had he inspired his country to victory and in the 31st minute he should have put them on course.
Pirlo picked out the enigmatic forward excellently and super Mario lobbed the ball over keeper Keylor Navas but away from goal.
Moments later Balotelli had another chance and fired straight at Navas as Italy suddenly seemed threatening.
The South American country bounced back with Oscar Duarte heading over from a wonderfully floated Ruiz cross before Arsenal’s Joel Campbell should have won a penalty.
Campbell raced at the Italian defence and appeared to be shoved to the ground inside the box by Giorgio Chiellini but referee Enrique Osses waved play on.
Fortunately justice was served a minute before the break when Ruiz angled his header in off the crossbar and over the line to give Costa Rica a deserved lead.
Despite England fans wishing the Azzurri on, Costa Rica ensured Italy were never able to get out of second gear.
Cesare Prandelli made changes but they never enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure on the Costa Rican goal.
The philosophy and braveness of Costa Rica was summed up in the third of minute injury time when under pressure, they passed their way out from the back and started to attack again.
Costa Rica don’t have the riches of England or the array of the quality players at their disposal but they have been tactically brilliant and followed out their task perfectly.
Costa Rica will be preparing for the last 16 after Tuesday’s match while England will be getting ready to come home.
This World Cup continues to shock and surprise and you imagine there will be plenty more in store. It is just a shame England’s journey is over.