It was supposed to be an easy match for Italy. The match that would have sent the Azzurri straight into the last 16 of the World Cup. In the end, Costa Rica surprisingly qualified to the Round of 16 and, as a result, sent England out of the World Cup.
The Central Americans eventually won 1-0 thanks to a first half goal by captain Bryan Ruiz.
Before the match, Cesare Prandelli kept the same system that beat Roy Hodgson’s side in the Italian’s first match of the tournament. While the system was the same, Prandelli made three changes to the team selection. Captain Gianluigi Buffon made his World Cup 2014 debut replacing PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu. Ignazio Abate played as right back, sending Chiellini to the middle of the defense, together with Andrea Barzagli. In the midfield, Thiago Motta replaced Marco Verratti.
Costa Rica played the same system where they got the stunning 3-1 win against Uruguay.
In the first half, Italy played as expected, using a lot of ball possession and trying to make the Costa Rica midfield chase the ball like the England midfield did on Saturday. This didn’t happen because Italy were too slow.
Pirlo was not involved in the core of the action, but the only important chance came from one of his amazing passes. After nearly 30 minutes in the first half, the Juventus midfielder found Mario Balotelli alone in the danger area. The AC Milan forward didn’t find the goal with a lob, and thus wasted the only chance that the Azzurri got in the whole game.
Just before the half time whistle, Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz surprised the Azzurri defense and goalkeeper Giauluigi Buffon with a header that touched the lower part of the crossbar and bounced down to cross the goal line.
In the second half, Prandelli made the brave decisio to involve three strikers in the game and replacing three midfielders. Antonio Cassano, Lorenzo Insigne and Alessio Cerci came in for Thiago Motta, Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Candreva.
Prandelli changed the system from a 4-5-1 to a 4-2-3-1, but the result didn’t change.
The Azzurri struggled to find the way to the goal for the second 45 minutes as well, while Costa Rica tried to hit them on the counter attack.
Italy didn’t even have one chance of scoring in the second half. The new strikers couldn’t find the right play to send Mario Balotelli through in front of the goal. And the AC Milan striker himself couldn’t find a way to create a chance against the Costa Rica defenders.
After four minutes of added time, the Central Americans celebrated an incredible and unexpected qualification to the last sixteen, while England are automatically out of the running with one match still to play.
It was supposed to be easy for Italy, but next Tuesday, the Azzurri will have to play the final group match match against Uruguay to qualify. Despite the loss today, a draw for Italy next week will be enough to qualify for the next round.