The temperatures pushed the tempers of the players, and the tempo of the game, as Costa Rica’s halftime lead led to a halftime skirmish with Italy in their Group D match on Friday afternoon.
But Italy could not respond in the second half, as Los Ticos continued CONCACAF’s remarkable World Cup in Brazil with a 1-0 win over Italy just days after shocking Uruguay by a 3-1 score.
Costa Rica is on to the knockout rounds. Italy is now even with Uruguay at a win a piece, and the two teams match up in the Group E finale. England has been eliminated.
Bryan Ruiz’s goal in the 44th minute was enough to give Los Ticos a much-desired lead, and here’s what we were saying at the break.
Mario Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo teamed up on a number of first half occasions, with the young striker unable to capitalize on some splendid balls from the veteran midfielder. Costa Rica made adjustments in the second half, harassing Pirlo nearly every time he was near the ball.
It was effective, and as Balotelli was denied service he responded with anger and petulance. He earned a yellow card for his troubles midway through half No. 2.
The introduction of Cassano and Insigne provided a change of pace, but the final ball wasn’t there. Shots made their way to Navas, but he didn’t look threatened.
And Italy did very little to pierce the Costa Rica back line. As the game hit 75, 80, 85 minutes, there seemed very little threat of an equalizer. The tactics of Jorge Luis Pinto were spot on.
Italy – Buffon; Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Darmian; De Rossi; Candreva (Insigne, 56′), Pirlo, Thiago Motta (Casano, 46′), Marchisio (Cerci, 70′); Balotelli
Costa Rica – Navas, Gonzalez, Omana, Burgas, Duarte, Bolanos, Ruiz (Brenes, 81′), Gamboa, Tejeda (Cubero, 68′), Campbell (Ureno, 74′)
Goals: Ruiz (44′)