Costa Rica vs Italy match report World Cup 2014: Bryan Ruiz on target to send Costa Rica through and England OUT

Hodgson's side have been eliminated at the earliest possible opportunity

Arena Pernambuco

When England take their leave of major tournaments, usually after an incompetently executed penalty shoot-out, the photographs are invariably of footballers on their haunches or on the turf coming to terms with their distress.

This time, England could grieve in private. For the first time since 1958, they have failed to qualify from their World Cup group and for the first time they have been eliminated while not actually playing a match.

There is nobody in the football world who would argue that Costa Rica do not deserve their place in the knockout phase. If their win over Uruguay was the shock of the tournament, this was something more.

In both Fortaleza and now in Recife, they took their chances and defended superbly. Every tackle, especially the two from Junior Diaz that blocked Ignazio Abate’s crosses, were cheered wildly by a stadium that recognised the measure of Costa Rica’s achievement. The sounds coming from the England team hotel in Rio de Janeiro would have been altogether different.  

Italy played dreadfully and the price of their failure is now an epic, winner-goes-though contest against Uruguay up the coast in Natal.

It is 20 years since they came from behind to win a World Cup fixture and this was a feat they rarely looked like repeating once Bryan Ruiz had scored.

At the start of the tournament, Ruiz, who had been considered surplus to requirements by Fulham, said he hoped Costa Rica had something to play for when they met England in their final group game. He did not get his wish. The game in Belo Horizonte will be a dead one. Costa Rica are through and England are out.


Ahead of yesterday’s game, the question was: did we want the tournament’s pluckiest team to be crushed by a nation that has a masters degree in football’s dark arts.

Meanwhile, Luis Suarez had reduced the English nation to hoping that the underdog would be crushed underfoot. It was like watching Harry Potter and keeping your fingers crossed for Voldemort.

But for most of this game the Italians did not look like the team that had produced what their manager, Cesare Prandelli, had rightly called “an epic” against England in the suffocating heat of the Amazon. This was the Italy that had sleepwalked through their warm-up matches and prepared for Brazil by going to Rio de Janeiro and conceding three against Fluminense, a club team that were recently nearly relegated.

After the final whistle in Manaus, the Italian players Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti admitted to suffering from hallucinations due to exhaustion. Collectively yesterday, Italy looked like they still needed to recover.

As Gary Lineker tweeted: “Just because we are reliant on Italy, it doesn’t mean  they have to play like us.” They were actually worse than Roy Hodgson’s side had been in either of their two matches. Costa Rica were just as effective as they had been beating  Uruguay in Fortaleza.

Mario Balotelli looked like he wasn’t especially bothered about being rewarded with a kiss from the Queen, the price he had demanded for engineering victory over Costa Rica. The opening 45 minutes presented him with two chances, both inevitably conjured by Andrea Pirlo.

The first was the best and saw Balotelli try to chip the advancing Kaylor Navas, mistimed his shot completely and saw the ball dribble wide. He made a better connection with his second opportunity but Navas was equal to it.

Prandelli responded to the poverty of the first-half display by removing Thiago Motta and putting on a second striker in the burly shape of Antonio Cassano.

His opposite number, Jorge Pinto, had admitted to feeling dreadfully nervous in the opening minutes of Costa Rica’s opener against Uruguay. He would have been much calmer now.

Giancarlo Gonzalez and Oscar Duarte kept a tight leash on Balotelli, and it was Prandelli’s left-back, Matteo Darmian, who came closest to scoring for Italy just after the interval with a swirling shot that Navas tipped over. It was followed by the first Pirlo free-kick of the afternoon, which the keeper punched away.

Costa Rica were already ahead by then, their lead protected by a thousand prayers offered up by their supporters and those neutrals who filled the Arena Pernambuco.

The first sign that they had their sights on more than a draw came when Celso Borges headed over the bar that was later to be fatally struck by Ruiz, and Duarte nodded on to the roof of Gianluigi Buffon’s net.

Then came the two moments where everything changed and both involved Giorgio Chiellini. Joel Campbell got behind the Italy defence only to be bundled over by Chiellini bundled, producing outrage on the Costa Rica bench as no penalty was given.

A minute later, however, Diaz swung in a cross which  hung in the air and Ruiz rose above Chiellini to nod it on to the bar. The ball bounced down and was as much over the line as Frank Lampard’s free-kick had been against Germany in Bloemfontein but this time there was technology. England had paid for its absence in South Africa; now they paid for its presence.

However, the England damage had been inflicted when they failed to do what the world’s 28th-ranked team did: beat Uruguay and Italy.

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