Costa Rica was magnificent against a very pedestrian Italian squad on Friday in Recife as they beat the Italian giants 1-0.

Bryan Ruiz scored the one and only goal for Los Ticos as they harassed, frustrated and stymied the Azzurri. Costa Rica’s underrated defense was great again as they threw three bodies into the box against Mario Balotelli, the famed Italian striker.

Los Ticos had a great game plan and executed it to perfection throughout the match. Additionally, they won almost every 50-50 ball, and had luck on their side as every ball seemed to bounce their way. That included the one and only goal scored in this match.

Bryan Ruiz received a Junior Diaz cross and headed it into the top of the cross bar. The ball bounced off the top of the goal and over the line inside the net. On the field, it looked as if the ball may have not crossed over the line, but FIFA’s new goal-line technology showed it had and Costa Rica was given the goal.

Against all odds, Costa Rica now leads Group D and has secured a place for themselves in the knockout stage on June 29th. Italy will have to win or draw against Uruguay next week if they wish to move on to the next round. For England, with the Costa Rican win, they are officially eliminated from group play.

The first moment of excitement came in the 7th minute when Costa Rica had a corner kick opportunity. Los Ticos entered a beautiful ball into the box, but Celso Borges headed it just above the cross bar.

The Italians were not as sharp and precise as they normally throughout the match. The team that had set the record for passing percentage (93) was not as accurate on Friday. Costa Rica did a great job of taking away the front line for Italy, and closing off space so that Pirlo and Marchiso had difficulty finding Balotelli.

Costa Rica put three defenders on Super Mario Balotelli in the match which helped slow and frustrate the Italian forward early and often.

The Azzurri slowed down the pace to a crawl in an attempt to control possession, tempo, and lull Costa Rica into making a mistake. The stadium in Recife, rained boos down upon the Italian squad to let them know their displeasure in the snail like pace.

Pirlo made a great pass in the 30th minute when he lobbed a beautiful through ball to a breaking Balotelli. The Costa Rican goalie, Keylor Navas, quickly charged at him and Balotelli tried to chip the ball over his head and in the goal, but just missed to the left. It was a missed opportunity at the time, but turned out to be one of the only chances Italy would get to score on this day.

Things started to break for Costa Rica in the 36th minute. After an Italian turnover, Costa Rica was able to get on the counter attack and have an excellent shot on goal by Christian Boalanos from outside the box. Buffon made a diving save to keep the game notched at zero.

Costa Rica had all the opportunities in the final moments of the first half, as they applied tremendous pressure on the Italian defense. Buffon made multiple saves, including punching a ball on a beautiful corner.

The crowd went into a frenzy on the 42nd minute when Costa Rica’s best player, Joel Campbell went on the counter attack for Costa Rica, juked an Italian defender and then appeared to have been brought down in the box, but no call was given on the pitch.

Campbell non-call Costa Rica's Joel Campbell is pulled down in the box, no call was made on the play and no penalty kick was awarded. Reuters

Costa Rica finally broke through in the closing seconds of the half. Junior Diaz sent a remarkable cross to the right side of the net inside the 6 yard box. Bryan Ruiz headed it just over Buffon which hit the top of the cross bar and bounced down in the goal and over the line. The Ticos were on the board and primed to pull off the upset.

Walking into the tunnel at halftime, a scuffle broke out as tensions were high over the Joel Campbell PK non-call. Costa Rican Coach, Jorge Luis Pinto, who was heated over the call initially was seen yelling at the Italian players while walking through the tunnel and into the locker room.

The Italians came out in the second half with the urgency needed to score the equalizer. Relentless pressure and precision passing lead to multiple scoring opportunities but Costa Rica was able to diffuse each and every Italian threat.

Balotelli personified the word “frustrating” as he got little to no touches in the second half and was given a yellow card for pulling down one of the three Costa Rican defenders that surrounded him like gnats for most of the match.

Costa Rica has now added to the opening round success of the highly underrated CONCACAF in the 2014 World Cup. Mexico, United States and Costa Rica have now all performed well on the global stage.

It was a bad day for the EUFA countries of Italy and England. England is now officially eliminated from World Cup group play and will now face a highly confident Costa Rican team on Tuesday, June 24th in a game that will technically not mean anything for either side.

The Azzurri looked slow and tired after playing a very tough match against England last week in the jungle of Manaus where temperatures and humidity were both in the high nineties.Italy will now have to regroup if they want to avoid being eliminated in the opening round from their second consecutive World Cup. They also square off on Tuesday, June 24th in a do or die match up against Uruguay. A win or draw and the Italians are through to the knockout stage. A loss and they will be going home. 

Game Notes:
Italy’s run of having scored in their last 15 consecutive games, a World Cup record, is now over. Italy has lost the second game in their group for the third straight World Cup. Part of the Costa Rican strategy was to squeeze Italy into going offsides. Italy was called offsides nine times, the most of end World Cup game so far. With the win by Costa Rica, England has been eliminated in the opening group stage for the first time since 1958.