Recife, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Costa Rica became the fourth country to qualify for the knockout round at the World Cup by grinding out a 1-0 victory over Italy at the Arena Pernambuco on Friday.
Los Ticos opened the tournament with a shock win against Uruguay and managed to build on the result by upsetting Italy thanks to a 44th-minute goal from Bryan Ruiz.
The win not only sees Costa Rica move to the top of Group D by improving to six points, but it also eliminates England from the World Cup before the knockout round for the first time since 1994 when they failed to qualify for the tournament.
"It was a lovely game and we're really pleased by how Bryan got his goal at such an important time, just before the interval," Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said after the match. "We were playing against an incredible team and we're very proud. I don't want to seem like I'm being over-positive, but I honestly think that our defense were simply perfect today. It's not easy tackling a team of Italy's quality.
"It must be said that much of what I now know about the game I owe to Italy, having always followed Italian football. Our players now have to stay cool and keep going. We need to savor this win but also be ready to play well in our upcoming matches."
The first great chance of the game came in the 31st minute when Andrea Pirlo picked out Mario Balotelli with a ball over the top of the Costa Rica defense, but the AC Milan striker was unable to hit the back of the net with a lobbed shot over on-rushing goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Balotelli had another great opportunity to break the deadlock two minutes later when he unleashed a shot on target from the top of the penalty area, but Navas was able to make the save.
Costa Rica was denied what appeared to be a stonewall penalty in the 43rd minute when Giorgio Chiellini impeded Joel Campbell in the box, but referee Enrique Osses waved play on.
But Los Ticos managed to overcome the poor decision just one minute later when Junior Diaz delivered a perfect cross to the back post for Ruiz to head home off the underside of the crossbar.
Italy struggled to create much in the way of scoring opportunities in the second half as the Costa Rica defense bunkered down and denied the Azzurri clear passing lanes.
It ultimately helped Los Ticos close out the contest and collect all three points to secure their spot in the round of 16 for just the second time ever.
Costa Rica can secure first place in the group by getting at least a tie against England at the Estadio Mineirao on Tuesday.
Italy, meanwhile, will battle Uruguay at the Estadio das Dunas on Tuesday for the chance to join Costa Rica in the next round.
"In truth, when the draw was made we knew this would be a tough group and that there was a good chance of finding ourselves in a position like this: taking on Uruguay in an absolutely decisive game," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said.