Italy 0 Costa Rica 1
Costa Rica cast aside their status as Group C minnows to inflict a surprise defeat on Italy and in doing so bring an abrupt end to England’s World Cup.
Bryan Ruiz’s impressive header was enough as the Ticos won 1-0 to become the first team to guarantee qualification from Group D.
Italy and Uruguay will battle it out for the other qualification spot – the Azzurri need only a draw – but England will only be playing for pride in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.
Costa Rica showed their 3-1 win over Uruguay was no fluke as they took the game to Italy in impressive style.
Celso Borges headed over from a corner early on, but it was Italy’s Mario Balotelli who had the best of the chances in the first half-hour.
First, Andrea Pirlo’s glorious ball over the top dropped perfectly for Balotelli, who controlled it with one touch and then lofted it over the on-rushing keeper Keylor Navas but it bounced well-wide and the former Manchester City striker held his head in his hands.
Two minutes later and Balotelli was in again, this time he went for power but too close to Navas, and the Costa Rica keeper was able to claim at the second attempt.
With half-time looming, Costa Rica were denied a blatant penalty.
Joel Campbell, the Arsenal striker on loan at Olympiakos, intercepted a pass, surged into the penalty box and was knocked over from behind by Giorgio Chiellini but Chilean referee Enrique Osses inexplicably waved ’play on’.
Costa Rica did not let that put them off their stride however and Junior Diaz’ exceptional cross from the left saw Fulham striker Ruiz, leaving his marker Chiellini in no man’s land, thump a far-post header in off the crossbar. It bounced a foot over the line but goal-line technology ensured there was not another travesty of justice.
Italy upped their game after the break, realising defeat would leave them vulnerable against Uruguay, with Parma striker Antonio Cassano coming on for defensive midfielder Thiago Motta.
GOALFLASH! Italy 0 Costa Rica 1 (Ruiz 44). Wow! After being robbed out of a penalty Costa Rica hit the front. http://t.co/oFwxaQ6tjW— breakingnews.ie (@breakingnewsie) June 20, 2014
Balotelli claimed a penalty of his own under challenge from Oscar Duarte, but it was not nearly so clear-cut as Costa Rica’s the referee once again turned away.
Italy mounted a series of attacks but Navas was having a blinder in the Costa Rica goal, first tipping over Matteo Darmian’s angled drive, and then turning aside Pirlo’s free-kick after Cassano had hurled himself to the floor to earn it.
Costa Rica still looked dangerous on the break and Gianluigi Buffon had to be quick out of his goal to clear the danger with Campbell about to pounce.
Italy continued to hustle and bustle but the Ticos kept the danger away from their goal, while at the other end Chiellini’s block denied substitute Marcos Urena.
Randall Brenes was a yard away from scoring a sensational second in injury time but it mattered not – Costa Rica were through and England’s fate was sealed.