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Costa Rica pulls second World Cup stunner over Italy

The 2014 World Cup draw seemed to immediately doom Costa Rica. Group D looked to stand for death, as Costa Rica was grouped with 2006 World Cup champion Italy, 2010 semifinalist Uruguay and ever uncertain England. But after the events of June 20, it is Costa Rica who is on track to win Group D in an historic breakthrough, after its latest upset over Italy by 1-0.

Costa Rica advances with upset of Italy
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Captain Bryan Ruiz got the winner at the tail end of the first half, as replay showed that his header bounced off the underside of the crossbar and landed past the goal line. Afterwards, the second half was scoreless, unlike when the Costa Ricans used a second-half flurry to stun Uruguay on June 14.

It was fitting that Costa Rica advanced to its second World Cup second round against Italy, since the first time came at Italy in the 1990 tournament. The Costa Ricans advanced no further that year, but at this rate, 2014 could be a different story.

2014 might not be different than 2010 for the Italians, however. Although Italy won the World Cup in 2006, it couldn't advance out of the knockout stage in 2010, and now it is one loss away from suffering the same fate in Brazil. Thanks to this match and Uruguay's victory over England on June 19, the Italians and Uruguayans are tied for second place with three points -- leaving them to face a practical play-in match together on June 24.

As for Costa Rica, it will next face a pointless England squad that now has nothing to play for, after being officially eliminated on June 20. The English will once again fall short of winning their first World Cup since 1966, although this is a quicker and more decisive elimination than usual.

Group D as a whole has been more unusual than anyone expected, as the likely winner will be the only nation without a championship. The Costa Ricans are poised to be the Cinderellas of this World Cup, but for the first time since the tournament began, they are not under the radar anymore -- which is just one reason why the next stage of the Cup will be uncharted territory for them.