By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Costa Rica beat Italy 1-0 this afternoon (June 20th) at the Arena Pernambuco to qualify for the second round in one of the most shocking storylines in recent World Cup history. Drawn in the supposed Group of Death alongside former world champions Italy, England and Uruguay, successive victories over first Uruguay and now the 2006 winners have booked their passage safely through to the final sixteen.
There was more bad news for England fans, however. Following defeats to Italy and Uruguay, this afternoon’s results officially confirmed their premature exit from the competition. Despite a shambolic showing, official word from FA headquarters is that coach Roy Hodgson will remain in his post for the 2016 European Championship.
Yet, in stifling heat, a truly inspiring story unveiled itself as Costa Rica matched Italy throughout a challenging second half to emerge victorious. Managing to mark playmaker Andrea Pirlo out of the game, Costa Rica scored the game’s only goal two minutes before the half-time whistle.
Diaz whipped in a cross from the left and Bryan Ruiz found space in the Italian defense to head the ball home off the underside of the crossbar. Goal-line technology confirmed the ball had crossed the line after bouncing and spinning out of the goalmouth.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli went for broke after the interval, sending on forward Antonio Cassano for midfielder Thiago Motta. Yet Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas was in inspired form, saving efforts from Darmian and Pirlo.
Prandelli sent more bodies forward, with Cerci and Insigne occupying positions on the wings, but Costa Rica continued to stand firm. Meanwhile, the fans in the stands became increasingly boisterous as what started out a few days ago as a wild fantasy suddenly became reality. Costa Rica are through to the knock-out stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
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