Thursday, in Recife, Brazil, Costa Rica soundly defeated Italy 1-0 in their World Cup Group D match. The score line did not show the difference between the teams on the pitch today. The Central Americans were easily a three-goals-better team and should have been a two-goal winner.
The result eliminates England as the match between Uruguay and Italy will determine the second team to progress from the group.
The first half was played at an interesting pace as Costa Rica seemed fresh and strong while the heat seemed to zap the Italians’ energy given their sluggish performance. Announcers and fans seemed to think the Italians were purposefully playing at a low gear in order to conserve energy, handle the heat, and come into the second half with enough juice to pull something off if needed.
But it turned out the Costa Ricans, more accustomed to the heat and humidity were simply playing their game while the Italians could not play theirs. The result was a one sided match where the Central Americans controlled possession, tempo, and opportunities.
At the 42nr minute another crucial officiating miscue occurred. Had subsequent action not rectified the situation FIFA would have had another officiating scandal on its hands. Joel Campbell, on a one-on-one breakaway had just gotten past Giorgio Chiellini and was turning toward goal ahead of the second defender’s arrival when Chiellini used his arm and hip to knock Campbell down. A clear penalty that the ref, trailing the play by a good 35 yards, did not see or call. The entire stadium did see the play and they booed and chanted their disapproval until the next important play two full minutes later.
At the 44th minute, a perfect left wing to far right post Junior Diaz cross found Bryan Ruiz at the far post. The header from Ruiz was perfect, it struck the bottom of the crossbar and clearly bounced inside the goal, behind Gianluigi Buffon’s dive, resulting in a great goal. The half ended on that note—Costa Rica 1, Italy 0.
With that result and the heat helping them one would think the Costa Ricans would be content to come into the second half and coast for as long as they could. The Italians though had to come out and look for at least a draw. The bottom line was that Costa Rica held their own and created more chances, ensuring the better odds were that they would increase their lead.
At the end the Costa Ricans had the better chances again and were unlucky not to convert and earn a better result. Nevertheless the Italians, thoroughly beaten, have a match with Uruguay to prepare for. That game will determine who progresses with Costa Rica and who will lead the group with six points and a plus-three goal differential.