Costa Rica stun Italy

Costa Rica

Costa Rica produced their second stunning upset in a week to beat a poor Italy side and confirm England’s exit from the 2014 World Cup.

The Central Americans fully warranted their win at Arena Pernambuco, which was sealed by a Bryan Ruiz header shortly before half-time.

The Fulham striker’s effort hit the crossbar and bounced over the line, with goalline technology confirming the decision.

The result proved Costa Rica’s victory over Uruguay in Fortaleza had been no fluke, and they might have won more comfortably had they been awarded a penalty when Arsenal striker Joel Campbell was clearly fouled in the area.

Italy were a shadow of the side that beat England in Manaus, and drop into second place in Group D, behind Costa Rica. Uruguay are third on goal difference.

The result confirmed what England had feared after Thursday’s 2-1 defeat by Uruguay in Sao Paulo, and means Roy Hodgson’s side will be eliminated whatever the result against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Italy face Uruguay in Natal at the same time.

History was not on England’s side going into this contest. Italy had failed to win their second group match at any of the previous three World Cups.

One man who had been present on all three occasions was goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Having missed Italy’s opening game against England, the Juventus captain was passed fit to play in his fourth World Cup, becoming only the fifth Italian to do so.

On his return, there were signs of rust as Costa Rica controlled much of the first half.

The Italy goalkeeper came for a corner but missed, only for Celso Borges to head just over. Buffon got down smartly to save a low shot from the excellent Christian Bolanos but the real drama was still to come.

Mario Balotelli wasted Italy’s best chance when he ran on to Andrea Pirlo’s superb pass and shot wide, before the half burst into life shortly before the interval with two key incidents.

In the first, Campbell checked back onto his left foot and ran at the Italian defence with typical vigour. His run was ended in the penalty area, as defender Giorgio Chiellini cut across the 21-year-old as he prepared to shoot.

It looked a clear penalty, but Chilean referee Enrique Osses waved play on to the disbelief of those in the Arena Pernambuco.

Costa Rica would not be denied, though.

Within a minute, they came forward again. Bolanos swung the ball wide to the left flank where Junior Diaz curled an inviting ball towards Ruiz at the back post. The Fulham forward connected with a header that first struck the crossbar and then bounced down, beyond the dive of Buffon, and over the line.

It was no more than Costa Rica deserved.

Italy could only get better, but any improvement was marginal. Pirlo tested Navas with a free-kick that wobbled and dipped, while Matteo Darmian thumped a rising shot that was tipped over the bar by the Costa Rica goalkeeper.

But Italy were flat as the game wore on and could make no impression on an organised Costa Rica side. They will now face Uruguay next Tuesday with the winner joining Costa Rica in the last 16.