RECIFE, Brazil — Costa Rica has turned the tables on the team’s World Cup expectations.
Or at least on everyone else’s expectations.
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.
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,’ said Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz, who scored the key goal. “But the other guys are the ones who are dead and we’re going to the next round.”
Ruiz gave his side the lead in the 44th minute, heading 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.
Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), Uruguay (1930, 1950) and England (1966) have won a combined seven World Cups.
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.
“Those who haven’t supported us may believe in us right now,” Ruiz said.
Italy, meanwhile, can still advance with a win or even a draw with Uruguay, since it leads on goal difference 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.”
It was exactly 24 years ago to the day that Costa Rica beat Sweden 2-1 to advance at the tournament in Italy.
“There are no more Cinderellas in football, especially in a competition like the World Cup,” Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon said.
It marked the fourth consecutive World Cup in which Italy failed to win its second match, although only in 2010 did the Azzurri not 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.”
France 5, Switzerland 2
SALVADOR, Brazil — Forwards Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema each scored one goal and created another as rampant France blew Switzerland away 5-2 Friday 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.
Switzerland pulled two consolation goals back as Blerim Dzemaili scored with a free kick in the 81st and Granit Xhaka slotted in the second in the 87th.
Ecuador 2, Honduras 1
CURITIBA, Brazil — Ecuador forward Enner Valencia scored twice in a 2-1 comeback victory over Honduras on Friday 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 came in the 65th when he out-jumped 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 difference.
More police at Maracana match
RIO DE JANEIRO — Six hundred additional military police will be assigned to Sunday’s World Cup match at Rio’s Maracana stadium after almost 100 un-ticketed Chilean fans rampaged through the stadium media center before the last game.
Coronel Jose Luis Castro, head of military police for Rio de Janeiro state, said Friday the reinforcements will be used to beef up the 2,500 military police that had already been assigned to the game.
FIFA’s director of security Ralf Mutschke called the security lapse before Wednesday’s 2-0 victory by Chile over Spain “embarrassing.” Four days earlier, at least 10 Argentine fans were detained after jumping fences at the famous stadium to see their team play Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The number of private security workers at Sunday’s match will also be increased from the 1,037 at the last game.
By wire sources