RECIFE, Brazil — Costa Rica followed up its surprise win over Uruguay with another World Cup stunner on Friday, beating four-time champion Italy, 1-0, to secure a spot in the next round and eliminate England in the process.
Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz gave his side the lead in the 44th minute, heading the ball in off the underside of the crossbar following a cross from Junior Diaz. Goal-line technology was used to show that the ball bounced down and in after hitting the bar.
There was a frenetic end to the first half, as, moments before Ruiz’s goal, Costa Rica had a penalty appeal waved away when striker Joel Campbell was bundled over by Giorgio Chiellini.
Costa Rica leads Group D with six points, while Italy and Uruguay have three each before Tuesday’s showdown. England has zero points after losing to Italy and Uruguay.
So after entering the tournament as an expected underdog in a group featuring three former world champions, Costa Rica is now on top.
“Maybe there are a lot of people who didn’t have faith in us because we were in the ‘Group of Death.’ But the dead are the other ones, and we’re going to the next round,” Ruiz said.
Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto was on the same wavelength.
“We have played a historic team. They’re really good,” he said. “They have wonderful players so, of course, we feel really proud. Our team feels proud, our country feels proud. We want to go even further.”
Italy, meanwhile, can still advance with a win or even a draw with Uruguay, since it leads on goal differential, which is the first qualifying criteria.
“We gave our all. They did well to block every pass,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. “There’s no worry now. We just need to regain our energy.”
Costa Rica’s only other appearance in the knockout phase came in its World Cup debut in 1990, when it beat Sweden and Scotland under experienced coach Bora Milutinovic before ultimately getting eliminated by Czechoslovakia.
“There are no more Cinderellas in football, especially in a competition like the World Cup,” Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon said.
It was exactly 24 years ago to the day that Costa Rica beat Sweden, 2-1, to advance at the tournament in Italy.
For Italy, it marked the fourth consecutive World Cup in which it failed to win its second match, although only in 2010 did the Azzurri fail to advance.
“We’ll play a great match against Uruguay,” second-half Italy substitute Antonio Cassano said. “I’m convinced we will. If we regain our energy, we can [advance] comfortably.”
While it was nowhere near as hot as Italy feared at the Arena Pernambuco — 84 degrees and 70 percent humidity, according to FIFA — the Azzurri still struggled to keep up with the speedy Ticos for long stretches.
Pinto lined up five defenders, but his squad was able advance forward with one swift, sweeping movement — just like in the 3-1 win over Uruguay.
“We did what we needed to do, we took away the game from the Italians,” Pinto said.
The Azzurri hardly threatened until Mario Balotelli had chances in the 31st and 33rd minutes.
First, Balotelli was set up with a long, vertical pass from Andrea Pirlo and tried to lift the bouncing ball over the charging goalkeeper Kerloy Navas’ head, but missed the target. Then the Azzurri forward had an effort from beyond the area stopped by Navas.
Costa Rica kept its poise, and in the 36th minute, Buffon had to make a diving save to stop a shot from midfielder Christian Bolanos.
In the 43rd, Chiellini made an uncharacteristic error — gifting the ball to Campbell near midfield — and then raced back and committed what appeared to be a clear foul. However, Chilean referee Enrique Osses motioned to play on.
Prandelli attempted to stir things up by adding Cassano, Lorenzo Insigne and Alessio Cerci in the second half, providing the Azzurri with four forwards instead of just Balotelli, but the 2006 winners rarely came close to equalizing.
Appearing frustrated throughout, Balotelli was shown a yellow card in the 69th for taking down Diaz.
Italy’s best chances to equalize were a long, angled shot from Matteo Darmian in the 51st and a free kick from Pirlo in the 53rd that found its way over Costa Rica’s wall — but Navas was waiting and pushed it away.
France 5, Switzerland 2
SALVADOR, Brazil — Forwards Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema each scored one goal and created another as France blew Switzerland away to take control of Group E and all but seal a place in the next round.
Giroud and Blasie Matuidi scored a minute apart, and Mathieu Valbuena added another to give France a 3-0 halftime lead.
Benzema made up for a penalty miss in the first half with a poacher’s finish in the 67th, and then turned provider for Moussa Sissoko, who made it 5-0 with a neat side-footed effort in the 73rd.
Blerim Dzemaili scored with a free kick for Switzerland in the 81st minute, and Granit Xhaka slotted in the second in the 87th.
Ecuador 2, Honduras 1
CURITIBA, Brazil — Ecuador forward Enner Valencia scored twice in a comeback victory over Honduras that kept his team in contention at the World Cup.
Ecuador moved into second spot in Group E with a match remaining against group-leading France, which has had two dominating wins.
Honduras took the lead in the 31st minute with its first goal at the World Cup in 32 years when Carlo Costly latched onto a long ball following a mistake from Ecuador defender Jorge Guagua.
Valencia responded three minutes later, tapping in from close range.
He scored the winner in the 65th when he outjumped the defense to head home a free kick from Walter Ayovi.
Ecuador lost its opening match, 2-1, to Switzerland, but edged ahead of the Swiss on goal differential.