Costa Rica beat Italy, advance to knockout phase
RECIFE, June 20 (Xinhua/Sun) -- Costa Rica advanced to the World Cup knockout phase for only the second time after captain Bryan Ruiz's first-half header gave them a 1-0 victory over Italy here on Friday.
The result eliminated England from the tournament and means Italy will play off with Uruguay for the other Group D second-round berth in Natal on June 24.
Costa Rica's only previous appearance in the World Cup's Round of 16 came in 1990 when they were beaten by Czechoslovakia in the Italian port city of Bari.
The Central American side also became the first team since France in 1998 to keep Italy from scoring in a World Cup fixture - a run that stretched to 15 matches.
Cesare Prandelli's side looked a shadow of the slick outfit that defeated England 2-1 six days earlier.
Gone was the sharp ball movement and potent edge in attack they showed in the simmering heat of Manaus.
Instead, the Azzurri looked weary and content to sit back for large periods of the match as Costa Rica seized the initiative from the outset.
Italy entered the match at Pernambuco Arena bolstered by the return of goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon, who missed the Azzurri's tournament debut with an ankle injury.
Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto opted to leave attacker Marcos Arena on the bench despite having scored as a late substitute in their opening 3-1 victory over Uruguay. After a lethargic opening, Italy began to control possession midway through the first half and could have taken the lead but for wasteful finishing.
AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli was the chief culprit, spurning two attempts in quick succession.
The best chance came when he inexplicably missed the target following Andrea Pirlo's sublime first-time lob over Costa Rica's defence from the halfway line.
Los Ticos looked intent to make Italy pay for their profligacy.
They were unlucky to have a penalty appeal waved away by Chilean referee Enrique Osses after Giorgio Chiellini appeared to bring down Joel Campbell.
But the breakthrough came minutes later from the forehead of Ruiz.
The Fulham forward met Junior Diaz's cross from the left with a powerful header that rebounded in off the bar, sending Costa Rica's fans into raptures.