Who's a minnow now? Costa Rica, the only team in Group D without a past World Cup championship, are on to the Round of 16 with a match to spare. The Ticos stunned four-time champion Italy 1-0 in Recife on Friday, staying perfect with six points through two matches and eliminating England in the process. The Azzurri, on three points, can still advance with a win or draw against Uruguay on Tuesday, June 23.
Costa Rica is the 3rd current CONCACAF nation to win its 1st two games at a #WorldCup (2002 Mexico, 1930 U.S.).— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 20, 2014
Group of Death. pic.twitter.com/evZW9XRTHW— Football Funnys (@FootballFunnys) June 20, 2014
NO CALL: Costa Rica thought they had earned a penalty kick in the 43rd minute, when Giorgio Chiellini knocked Joel Campbell down from behind as Campbell cut across the area on a break. Referee Enrique Osses allowed play to continue and waved to Campbell to get up.
NO DOUBT: A minute after Campbell went down, Costa Rica went ahead anyway. Bryan Ruiz came in unmarked to meet Junior Díaz's diagonal cross and headed it off the bottom of the crossbar and just over the goal line to put the Ticos ahead 1-0. Goal-line technology quickly confirmed the goal, even though the ball bouncd back into play, and Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto, who had been berating officials regarding the non-penalty kick, pointed skyward in appreciation.
NO ROOM: Costa Rica took a tough, intelligent – if risky – defensive tack from the outset, keeping their defensive line high in an effort to control master distributor Andrea Pirlo's options from the midfield. The Italians did get a few decent chances through Mario Balotelli before the break, but he put his chip wide in the 31st minute – wasting a beautiful ball from Pirlo, who had only 36 touches in the first half, half of what he had in Italy's opening 2-1 win over England – and had his hard low shot saved by Keylor Navas in the 33rd.
NO CLUE: Italy never managed to solve Costa Rica's offside trap with any consistency, despite knowing how heavily the Ticos were relying on it. The Azzurri saw the flag go up 11 times, as the Central Americans' backline proved adept at the split-second step up all day.
Italy's 18th offside in two days challenging modern day record current held by Raiders' offensive line on about 53 occasions.— Ray Ratto (@RattoCSN) June 20, 2014
NO FEAR: The Ticos were not afraid to go after the ball when they needed to. They committed 23 fouls to Italy's 10 but also won 19 tackles, more than double Italy's total of nine on the day.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ruiz. Before Costa Rica's anger at the no-call could get out of hand and undo all of their hard defensive work, he turned it into jubilation with his stunning match-winner.