England (0-2-0) vs. Costa Rica (2-0-0) Noon (ET)
06/24/2014 8:23 AM
06/24/2014 8:27 AM
Belo Horizonte, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Costa Rica will aim to finish atop Group D on Tuesday with a least a draw when Los Ticos battle England in their final group-stage encounter at the Estadio Mineirao.
Costa Rica has been an unlikely surprise throughout the group stage, posting two spectacular victories against seemingly superior opposition in Uruguay and Italy.
Los Ticos took out a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay side, 3-1, in their first group stage match and headed into Friday's encounter with Italy hoping to pull off another upset.
Costa Rica ceded much of the possession to Italy during the opening half and Mario Balotelli had a great opportunity to open the scoring in the 33rd minute when he unleashed a wicked strike from the top of the penalty area, but Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas made the stop.
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 Bryan Ruiz to head home off the underside of the crossbar.
"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. "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."
England, meanwhile, will be heading home after losing their first two matches of group play to Italy and Uruguay, and subsequently being eliminated from the World Cup.
After falling, 2-1, to Italy in Manaus, the Three Lions needed a win against Uruguay on Thursday to have any chance to advance, but they had no answer for Luis Suarez, who made his World Cup debut with two goals following knee surgery.
Suarez opened the scoring in the 39th minute when he split England defenders Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill to head home a cross from Edinson Cavani.
England equalized in the 75th minute through Wayne Rooney, who tucked home a cross form Glen Johnson for his first World Cup goal, but Suarez, the Liverpool man, had the final laugh as a goal kick from Fernando Muslera, was nodded forward by England captain Steven Gerrard.
The flick allowed Suarez to stay onside, and he took a quick touch on the right flank and ripped a rocket past England goalkeeper Joe Hart to the far post.
"I think we controlled Suarez very well in general play. We kept him quiet for long periods," England manager Roy Hodgson said. "He was voted the player of the year [in England] by everyone. Today he was coming back from injury, so he was quieter than usual. But he got two chances and being the top player that he is, he put them away. But the second goal was an unfortunate flick off Gerrard's head. We were playing most of the game in the Uruguay half, playing well, then they got that second goal. When the World Cup is played on the South American continent, South American teams generally do well."
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