Zee Media Bureau/Shoban Saxena from Recife
The "group of death" has three world champions, but it was Costa Rica which became the first to win a place in the last 16. After beating Uruguay 3-1 in the first round of group matches, the "Ticos" created one of the biggest upsets of the World Cup as they defeated Italy 1-0 on Friday at the Pernambuco Arena here.
It was a bad news for England, which, after two defeats, depended on an Italian victory to stay alive in the group. Now, they are going home irrespective of what happens in their last game against Costa Rica. The last round of Group D matches will be played on next Wednesday when Italy meet and Uruguay, both with three points, in Natal. The winner of that game will make it to the next round.
After staging the biggest upset of this World Cup, Costa Rica became the third Latin American team to qualify for pre-quarter final stage. The Chileans, who dispatched Spain home, and Colombia have already qualified.
Under the hot sun of Pernambuco, the game started with a slight edge to Costa Rica which controlled the match from the beginning. In the middle of the first half, the Italians attacked well but Balotelli wasted two chances. In the 31st minute, the attacker had the clearest opportunity inside the area, but the ball went straight to the keeper.
After the Italian scare, Costa Rica took the lead in the final minutes of the first half. In the 42nd minute, Campbell dribbled the ball into the area and was brought down by Chiellini, but the referee did not score the penalty. But Costa Rican goal came two minutes later. Diaz crossed from the left for Ruiz and he headed the ball above Italian keeper Buffon. The ball still hit the crossbar before dropping inside the goal line.
The second half began with Italy trying to control the game. In the first minutes of this half, Italian coach Cesare Prandelli replaced the Thiago Motta and defender Candreva to put two new strikers. But the changes were not effective. The best chance came from a free kick by Pirlo, but it was saved by the keeper Navas.
As he failed to equalise, Balotelli became increasingly frustrated and got a yellow card for a foul. After the defeat, the Italian team looked totally dejected and the coach blamed them for not playing well.
In another game in the second round of Group E, France missed a penalty by Kaim Benzema, but still managed to beat Switzerland 5-2 at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador. This was the third big thrashing received by a team in Salvador. Previously, the city had seen Holland beat Spain 5 x 1 and Portugal lose to Germany 4 x 0.
With the result, France reached six points and virtually secured their spot for the next round. As Ecuador beat Honduras and now has three points like Switzerland, the French just need a draw against Ecuador next Wednesday at Maracanã Stadium.
For France, the goals were scored by Giroud, Matuidi, Valbuena, Benzema, who is one of the top scorers in the World Cup with three goals in two games, and Sissoko. Dzemaili Xhaka and scored for the Swiss.
In the Ecuador-Honduras game, Costly opened the score for Honduras in the 30th minute of the first half and ended 32 years drought for the country, which scored their only goal in World Cups in 1982 in a tie with Northern Ireland. Since then there have been five matches without scoring a goal.
Enner Valencia equalized three minutes later and turned the match in the second half.
In this important match for both the teams, Enner Valencia scored twice to give three points his team. Valencia now has three goals, alongside Müller of Germany, Benzema from France, and Robben and Van Persie from the Netherlands.
On Wednesday, France faces Ecuador at Maracana in the last round of the group. On the same day and time, Switzerland and Honduras face off in Manaus. Honduras must defeat Switzerland in Amazonia Arena and hope for a French victory over Ecuador to follow the World Cup.