Friday, June 20, 2014 7:26 pm
Costa Rica this evening pulled off a second stunning shock at the FIFA World Cup and booking a place in the second round courtesy of a lone goal win over 2006 champions Italy in Recife.
The Central Americans had come from behind to defeat 2010 semi-finalists Uruguay 3-1 in their opening Group D match and a Bryan Ruiz header just before half-time gave Costa Rica a second astounding win in Brazil.
Costa Rica started the same side that beat Uruguay and it told early on as they put the Italians on the backfoot and isolated their lone striker Mario Balotelli.
The AC Milan forward had jovially tweeted on Thursday night that he would need a kiss from Queen Elizabeth if he and Italy help keep England in the World Cup by beating Costa Rica.
And Balotelli came close within two minutes just past the half-hour mark, first lobbing an Andrea Pirlo pass from midfield wide before firing a volley straight at the Costa Rica goalkeeper after being set up by Pirlo and Thiago Motta.
Momentum swung back to the Costa Ricans towards the end of the first half, with Joel Campbell’s penalty shout in the 43rd minute waved away by the referee after the Arsenal striker was brought down by Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli.
The Costa Ricans would however take a deserved lead a minute later, with the help of goal-line technology, when Oscar Duarte’s cross was headed in off the bar by Bryan Ruiz.
Italy started the second half in frantic manner, forcing good saves from Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas who kept out a Darmian effort before denying Pirlo from a free-kick within five minutes of the second half.
Playing a low defensive line for the second half, Costa Rica soon asserted themselves and became content with sitting back to keep the Italians out and hold on for a memorable win.
The result means England have been knocked out of the World Cup while Italy and Uruguay will now face off in their final group matcn for the right to join Costa Rica in the second round.