Costa Rica stun Italy 1-0
Costa Rica stun Italy and send England out
COSTA RICA 1
(Bryan Ruiz 44)
England woke up yesterday morning hoping that Italy might do them a favour by beating Costa Rica and allow them to dream of a most unlikely qualification.
Instead, Italy lost 1-0 and if they play that badly against Uruguay next week, the only favour they could do England is to share a taxi with them to the airport.
Italy were wretched from the first moment to the last and, had it not been for some particularly contentious officiating, they would have lost by a far greater margin.
Costa Rica took a deserved lead just before the break through a Bryan Ruiz header and they never looked like relinquishing it.
The Central Americans are not to be patronised with words like ''plucky'' or ''brave'', though both labels certainly apply.
They are a good football team, far better than anyone expected.
They have a collective spirit that aids them in both attack and defence and they have players capable of putting any defence under pressure.
Celso Borges, in particular, was influential in the midfield while Junior Diaz, only in the team because of Bryan Oviedo's injury, was a revelation.
Italy started sluggishly.
Their passing, so accurate against England, was desperately wayward.
It was almost as if they considered the job done before it had even begun.
They couldn't have been more wrong.
One backpass from Claudio Marchisio summed up the extent of their efforts, evading Gianluigi Buffon by some distance and rolling out for a corner.
It took half an hour for Italy to create their first good chance, Mario Balotelli's impetuous lob veering horribly across the face of goal.
Moments later, a rather more composed shot was saved well by Keylor Navas, but these were anomalies in a desperately poor performance.
The game management that served Italy so well against England, the composure, the confidence, the professionalism, it was all absent without leave.
The underdogs could have taken the lead early on when Borges headed over after an uncharacteristic moment of uncertainty from Buffon.
Ten minutes before half-time, Christian Bolanos’ long-range effort was tipped around the post and Oscar Duarte’s backward header flew only just over the bar moments later.
And then came the moment that could have broken Costa Rican hearts.
Quite how referee Enrique Osses didn’t award a penalty two minutes before the break is something only he will know.
His explanation to the referee’s assessors will be quite something.
Joel Campbell was through on goal when he was unceremoniously bundled over by Giorgio Chiellini, but Osses was so far behind the play that he missed it by miles.
On the touchline, Jorge Luis Pinto was furious, shouting and gesticulating to the fourth official.
It made no difference. Chiellini could have been off. Costa Rica should have had a penalty.
Fortunately, an element of justice was done just a minute later.
A wonderful cross from Diaz found the former Fulham midfielder Ruiz in space and he headed the ball powerfully into the net.
The most ardent Italian supporter couldn’t deny that Costa Rica deserved the lead.
Italian manager Cesare Prandelli took action at half-time, introducing the mercurial Antonio Cassano for Thiago Motta, but it made little difference.
Even the god-like Andrea Pirlo misplaced his passes, causing his teammates to throw their hands into the air in frustration.
After 10 minutes with no improvement, Antonio Candreva was withdrawn and replaced with Lorenzo Insigne, another striker to support Balotelli.
Again, it was to no avail.
Cerci Immobile, so impressive with Torino last season, replaced Marchisio to give Italy three strikers.
And still, Italy were flat and lethargic.
Costa Rica were supposed to be the whipping boys of this group. Instead, they are the first to qualify from it.
England, for all of their hopes, are out.