The second leg of games is through for Group D and, with a stunning win by Costa Rica over Italy, England has officially been eliminated from the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Los Ticos took a 1-0 victory that put them at the head of the group and qualified them for the round of 16 for the first time in 24 years.
Prior to the game even starting, Mario Balotelli tweeted cheekily that he wanted a kiss from the “UK Queen” if the Azzurri were to beat Costa Rica and save the Three Lions from being knocked out of the World Cup. Balotelli is not likely to get his wish, though, as the Italians failed in their quest.
Costa Rica took their “underdog” status for Group D and threw it right out of the window with their defeat of Uruguay, but they still were not favored to beat Italy. This did not seem to faze Los Ticos, as they started right from the kickoff pressing hard at the defense with Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell. Costa Rica also did what the English did not, or could not, do on Saturday; they disrupted the Italians in the middle of the field.
Andrea Pirlo was as fantastic as ever, but Óscar Duarte and Júnior Díaz kept him from connecting with his teammates at every possible chance. Pirlo had a couple of perfectly placed long balls to Balotelli, but “Mad Mario” was unable to find the net.
Then, in the 44th minute, Díaz ran down the left side and delivered a beautiful cross to an unmarked Ruiz at the back post, who headed the ball over a returned Gianluigi Buffon into the underside of the crossbar. The shot ricocheted into the goal, confirmed by the new goal line technology to have fully crossed the line.
Los Ticos took a 1-0 lead into halftime, though it arguably should have been a 2-0 lead. Joel Campbell was taken down in the box by a double team in the 42nd minute, but Chilean referee Enrique Osses waved the foul away, leaving the Costa Rican fans enraged. The goal a couple of minutes later pacified the fans, but the stain on the result remains.
Italy revived their attack in the second half, looking for that equalizer. Matteo Darmian got involved in the attack, and launched a bullet from the left corner of the box that Keylor Navas tipped over the crossbar in the 50th minute. Cassano picked up a free kick on a minor foul just a moment later, but Pirlo’s incredible shot was again blocked by Navas.
The Azzurri continued to make runs, but Costa Rica found ways to break up the plays and answered with quick, seamless counterattacks. The cohesion between the back four and attacking three was flawless for Los Ticos.
Lorenzo Insigne volleyed a shot sky-high and Coach Cesare Prandelli turned and sat heavily on the end of the bench in a perfect image of the Italians’ frustration. A breakaway by Marco Ureña nearly made the score 2-0 in the 83rd minute, but the ball was kicked out of bounds.
Italy continued to attack, but after four minutes of extra time, the whistle blew on England’s hopes, as Costa Rica took the win and the first advancing spot for Group D, and eliminated the Three Lions from the 2014 World Cup. England will face Costa Rica next Tuesday, while Italy and Uruguay battle it out for the second advancing spot.
Wayne Rooney got his first finals goal, but England are headed home after group play finishes next week, as Costa Rica’s win over Italy eliminates them from any chance of advancing and drops them to last place in Group D for the 2014 World Cup. Costa Rica is the first of the CONCACAF teams to advance, as the United States, Mexico, and Honduras have yet to lock in a spot in the round of 16.
Commentary by Christina Jones