By Mike Richman
June 22nd, 2014 (VOA) Costa Rica qualified for the World Cup’s Round of 16 with a 1-0 upset of Italy, while France virtually assured itself of a spot in that round by dominating Switzerland, 5-2.
Costa Rica’s win ruined England’s chances of reaching the Round of 16, the knockout round. The last time England failed to qualify for that stage of the World Cup was 1958.
England, the world’s 10th-ranked team according to FIFA, has suffered 2-1 losses to both Italy and Uruguay.
In Friday’s Group D match in Recife, Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz scored on a header just before halftime. Junior Diaz supplied the cross from the left, and Ruiz headed the ball onto the underside of the crossbar and over the line to beat goalie Gianluigi Buffon.
Fans of Costa Rica danced in the sunshine at Pernambuco Arena after their team’s second victory.
“We kept up our heads; it was a beautiful match,” Costa Rica’s coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. “The people of Costa Rica deserve this. They supported the team and me. This was for them.”
The last team to keep Italy from scoring at the World Cup was France in 1998. Italy then scored in 15 straight World Cup games before Friday’s loss, after which Italy’s coach, Cesare Prandelli, tried to remain positive.
“Right now, I don’t think we need to be negative,” he said. “We need to think about recovering our energies because we have another game in a few days’ time. We play against Uruguay, and whether we qualify depends on that.”
Costa Rica leads Group D with six points, followed by Italy and Uruguay with three each. Uruguay and Italy play each other on Tuesday in their final group match, which will decide which team advances to the knockout round along with Costa Rica.
In Group E play Friday in Salvador, France cruised to a 5-0 lead and held on for its three-goal win over Switzerland, the world’s 6th-ranked team.
France’s Olivier Giroud and Blasie Matuidi scored a minute apart in the first half, and Mathieu Valbuena made it 3-0 after a nifty pass by Giroud. The French outshot Switzerland in the first half, 11-4. Karim Benzema of France made up for a penalty miss in the first half with a goal in the 67th minute, then created Moussa Sissoko’s score six minutes later.
“It was a great day for us,” France’s coach Didier Deschamps said. “We were 5-0 up against a good Swiss team after 75 minutes, and we really had a lot of pressure in midfield. There were a few turning points in the game, but to be able to reach 3-0 at halftime really helps. At 2-0, opponents can still turn things round, but 3-0 makes a difference. We have to continue in the same vein. We have now scored eight goals and have been very effective; there’s no doubt about that.”
France leads Group E with six points, while Ecuador and Switzerland trail with three points each.
In Friday’s last game, Ecuador beat Honduras, 2-1, in Curitiba. Honduras took the lead in the 31st minute with its first World Cup goal in 32 years; but, Ecuador’s Enner Valencia responded with two goals, including the game-winner in the 65th minute.
The win kept Ecuador in contention for the knockout round. Ecuador and France clash on Wednesday in their last group game.
There are two Group F matches on Saturday. Argentina, which leads that group with three points, takes on Iran and Nigeria faces Bosnia-Herzegovina. Germany, which is tied with the United States atop Group G with three points, battles Ghana.