Ruiz header sends Costa Rica into dreamland
Published 21/06/2014 | 02:30
When England take their leave of major tournaments, usually after an incompetently executed penalty shoot-out, the photographs are invariably of footballers on their haunches or on the turf coming to terms with their distress.
Costa Rica 1 Italy 0
This time, England could grieve in private. For the first time since 1958, they have failed to qualify from their World Cup group and for the first time they have been eliminated while not actually playing a match.
There is nobody in the football world who would argue Costa Rica do not deserve their place in the second round. If their win against Uruguay was the shock of the tournament, this was something more.
In Fortaleza and in Recife, they took their chances and defended superbly. Every tackle, especially the two from Junior Diaz that blocked Ignazio Abate's crosses, were cheered wildly by a stadium that recognised the measure of Costa Rica's achievement. The sounds coming from the England hotel in Rio de Janeiro would have been altogether different.
Italy played dreadfully and the price of their failure is now an epic, winner-goes-though contest against Uruguay up the coast in Natal, although a draw will be enough for the Italian.
It is 20 years since they came from behind to win a World Cup fixture and this was a feat they rarely looked like repeating once Bryan Ruiz had scored.
At the start of the tournament, Ruiz, who had been considered surplus to requirements by Fulham, said he hoped Costa Rica had something to play for when they met England in their final group game. He did not get his wish as Costa Rica are through and England are out.
After the final whistle in Manaus, Italian players Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti admitted to suffering from hallucinations. Collectively yesterday, Italy looked like they still needed to recover.
As Gary Lineker tweeted: "Just because we are reliant on Italy, it doesn't mean they have to play like us." They were actually worse than Roy Hodgson's side had been in either of their matches.
Mario Balotelli looked like he wasn't bothered about being rewarded with a kiss from the British queen, the price he had demanded for engineering victory over Costa Rica. The opening 45 minutes presented him with two chances, both of which he squandered.
Prandelli responded to the poverty of the first-half display by removing Thiago Motta and putting on a second striker in Antonio Cassano.
His opposite number, Jorge Pinto, had admitted to feeling dreadfully nervous in the opening minutes of Costa Rica's opener against Uruguay. He would have been much calmer now.
Giancarlo Gonzalez and Oscar Duarte kept a tight leash on Balotelli, and it was Prandelli's left-back, Matteo Darmian, who came closest to scoring for Italy just after the interval with a swirling shot that Navas tipped over. It was followed by the first Andrea Pirlo free-kick of the afternoon, which the keeper punched away.
The first sign Costa Rica had their sights on more than a draw came when Celso Borges headed over the bar and Duarte nodded on to the roof of Gianluigi Buffon's net.
Then came two moments where everything changed. Joel Campbell got behind the Italy defence only to be bundled over by Giorgio Chiellini, producing outrage on the Costa Rica bench as no penalty was given.
A minute later, Diaz swung in a cross which hung in the air and Ruiz rose above Chiellini to nod it on to the bar. The ball bounced down and was as much over the line as Frank Lampard's free-kick had been against Germany in Bloemfontein but this time there was technology. England had paid for its absence in South Africa; now they paid for its presence.
However, the England damage had been inflicted when they failed to do what the world's 28th-ranked team did: beat Uruguay and Italy. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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