Costa Rica has unbelievably secured a position in the knockout stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil this morning, continuing their incredible run of upsets to beat Italy 1-0 at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife.
Drawn alongside powerhouse nations Italy, Uruguay and England in Group D at the 2014 World Cup, Costa Rica were widely expected to play three pool matches for no victories and return to their Central American home ahead of another hopeful finals appearance in 2018, however are now the first team from their group to qualify for the next round, having put Uruguay to the sword 3-1 in their campaign-opener earlier this week.
Forced into their own half from the game’s opening whistle, 90 minutes of one way traffic appeared on the cards when the Costa Ricans were unable to maintain any possession; continually returning to ball to the feet of the Italians.
National legend Andrea Pirlo appeared to be in typically devastating touch, completing long, piercing passes to slice open the Costa Rican midfield and allow striker Mario Balotelli several good opportunities, to no avail.
Settling into the match after 20 minutes of resistance, the Costa Ricans began to build in confidence and creativity, moving the ball around the field and allow their wings several good opportunities to push forward in attack.
Continuing to mount the pressure on the Italian goal, cries for a penalty in the 43rd minute fell on deaf ears when Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell appeared to be pushed over in the box by defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Quickly getting back to the task at hand, Costa Rica arguably played out their most memorable moment at a World Cup when a pinpoint accurate cross found the head of Captain Brian Ruiz, hitting the crossbar and falling behind the line of Gianluigi Buffon, sending Los Ticos to the break 1-0 up.
Returning from the break in similarly positive form, the Costa Rican defence continued to hold strong, often breaking down the Italian attack before a shot could be mustered.
As the clock continued to count down, Italy appeared to be lacking the final touch and became noticeably frustrated as a unit and opportunity after opportunity failed to find the mark.
Upon the final whistle, the Costa Rican bench burst onto the field, piling onto their team mates in excitement of what is sure to go down as an historic victory for the minnow nation at any FIFA World Cup.
Securing qualification for the knock out phase of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Costa Rica’s victory has also ensured England will not progress, marking another disappointing campaign for the Three Lions.
While yet to secure a victory this campaign, England are surprisingly clear favourites to beat Costa Rica when the two sides meet on June 25th at a quote of $1.73, offering punters exceptional value for a Ticos victory at $4.33 odds at leading online bookie Ladbrokes.com.au.