ITALY 0, COSTA RICA 1 (WORLD CUP GROUP D)
HARD WORKING COSTA RICA CONDEMN ITALY TO DEFEAT AND END ENGLAND WORLD CUP HOPES EARLY
How the Scots must be laughing now at the prospect of an England v Costa Rica game in which the English have nothing to play for after Fulham striker Bryan Ruiz’ header condemned England to their earliest exit at a World Cup since 1958.
England might even face a whitewash at the hands of surprise package Costa Rica after they produced another hard working tactical performance to frustrate and then defeat the Italians to qualify go top of Group D on six points.
For what it’s worth, the Costa Ricans, who have now qualified for the knockout phase for only the second time in their history, gave themselves a great chance of topping Group D and will do so if they were to avoid defeat against England next Tuesday.
FA Chairman Greg Dyke today confirmed that that Roy Hodgson will remain as England manager until 2016.
He claimed that England had not been humiliated during the two close defeats and that there was no great value in changing England managers and spoke of a four year cycle and a hope to do better at Euro 2016.
For long periods of this game, played at an agonisingly slow pace in sweltering conditions, Italy probed the Costa Ricans and produced a number of half chances, notably for Thiago Motta and a superb pass from Andrea Pirlo to find Mario Balotelli in space but his attempted chip was wide. Balotelli thumped a 31st minute shot directly at Keylor Navas.
Waiting too long for the space to open up, the Italian profligacy was about to bite them back though.
Costa Rica started to create chases at the end of the first half, with a trio of chances for Costa Rica. Cristian Bolanos had a shot tipped away Buffon. Bryan Ruiz shot straight at the Italian ‘keeper and his chip was headed onto the roof of the net by Oscar Duarte.
Close enough, perhaps, but Costa Rica went one better at the end of the first half.
Joel Campbell went down in the penalty area after being pushed by Giorgio Chiellini in the 43rd minute but Jorge Luis Pinto was furious and animated at the referee’s decision to play on.
Justice was served less than two minutes later when Ruiz headed Costa Rica into the lead from a cross by Junior Diaz which went in off the crossbar.
Italy were being reduced to frustrated long range efforts as Balotelli and substitute Lorenzo Insigne were frequently caught offside and the Costa Ricans constantly pushed up, compressing space in midfield and working hard to press the Italians.
Balotelli, who had claimed on Twitter that he would expect a kiss on the cheek from the Queen if Italy beat Costa Rica and Uruguay, got booked as Italian frustrations boiled over. Italy saw more and more of the offside flag as they toiled against Costa Rica.
Spaces opened up in the last few minutes as Italy had to gamble to avoid a potentially group ending encounter against Uruguay next Tuesday but it was substitute Randall Brenes who came closest to scoring with an effort that flashed narrowly wide in injury time.