Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Sports

Costa Rica stuns Italy, clinches spot in World Cup Round of 16

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RECIFE, Brazil — Costa Rica has turned the tables on the team's World Cup expectations.

Or at least on everyone else's expectations.

Costa Rica followed up its surprise win over Uruguay with another World Cup stunner Friday, beating four-time champion Italy 1-0 to secure a spot in the next round and eliminate England in the process.

After entering as an expected underdog in a group featuring three former world champions, the "Ticos" are now on top.

"Maybe there are a lot of people who didn't have faith in us because we were in the 'Group of Death,' " said Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz, who scored the goal. "But the other guys are the ones who are dead, and we're going to the next round."

In the 44th minute, Ruiz headed in a ball off the underside of the crossbar off of a cross from Junior Diaz. Goal-line technology was used to show that the ball bounced down and in after hitting the bar.

There was a frenetic end to the first half, as moments before Ruiz's goal Costa Rica had a penalty appeal waved away when striker Joel Campbell was bundled over by Giorgio Chiellini.

Costa Rica leads Group D with six points, while Italy and Uruguay have three each before Tuesday's showdown. England has zero points after losing to Italy and Uruguay and has been eliminated.

Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), Uruguay (1930, 1950) and England (1966) have won a combined seven World Cups.

Costa Rica's only other appearance in the knockout phase came in its World Cup debut in 1990. It was 24 years to the day since Costa Rica beat Sweden 2-1 to advance at the World Cup in Italy.

"Those who haven't supported us may believe in us right now," Ruiz said.

Italy can still advance with a win or tie with Uruguay, since it leads on goal difference, the first tiebreaker.

"We gave our all. They did well to block every pass," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. "There's no worry now. We just need to regain our energy."

"There are no more Cinderellas in football, especially in a competition like the World Cup," Italian captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said.

Thousands of Costa Ricans waving the country's blue, white and red flag poured onto the streets of their capital, San Jose, to celebrate. The country came to a standstill as government employees took the day off to watch the game, and many schools shut down shortly after the victory to let children join in the celebration. President Luis Guillermo Solis walked from the presidential house to Fuente de la Hispanidad, a traditional place for celebrations in San Jose.

Karla Madrigal, a nurse, watched the game in a plaza where a giant screen was set up.

"Once the game ended, people started jumping, shouting, crying," she said. "It was a giant party."

France 5, Switzerland 2: Forwards Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema each scored one goal and created another as France ran rampant in Salvador to take control of Group E.

Giroud and Blasie Matuidi scored a minute apart and Mathieu Valbuena added another to give France a 3-0 halftime lead.

"The two quick goals really broke us," Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said. "It was hard to come back to the game."

Benzema made up for a penalty miss in the first half with a poacher's finish in the 67th, then turned provider for Moussa Sissoko, who made it 5-0.

"His happiness is a joy to behold, he's one of the best players in the world and having such an efficient player is very important in a competition like this," French coach Didier Deschamps said of Benzema.

Ecuador 2, Honduras 1: Forward Enner Valencia scored twice to lead a comeback victory in Curitiba that kept Ecuador in contention to advance.

Honduras took the lead in the 31st minute with its first World Cup goal in 32 years. Forward Carlo Costly latched onto a long ball following a misjudgment from Ecuador defender Jorge Guagua, ending a 511-minute drought dating to 1982.

Valencia tied it three minutes later, and the winner came in the 65th minute when he out-jumped the defense to head home a left-sided free kick from Walter Ayovi.

Honduras has never won a Cup match (0-5-3) but is not mathematically eliminated.

"We still have that possibility, though it is remote and we will fight for it," Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez said.

 
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