It was a positive and bright start by the Costa Ricans – and it lasted the full 90 minutes. Worthy of their half-time lead, the goal came at a crucial point. Collectively fearless and capable of passing the ball around with confidence and maturity, Costa Rica posed a near constant threat on the counter-attack, a continuation of the philosophy evident against Uruguay in their World Cup opener. Defensively, the Costa Ricans didn’t allow the Italians to play the ball or impose their incisive forward play masterminded by the evergreen Andrea Pirlo. Playing a high line and closing down well, Costa Rica took a deserved 1-0 lead into the break. It could have been more in the second half as the Italians looked one dimensional and lethargic in the final third, seemingly incapable of retaining possession. Arsenal youngster Joel Campbell was a constant meance, using his pace to spearhead the Costa Rica counter. The Central Americans have now recorded maximum points, with qualification to the knockout stages their reward, claiming a clean sweep of the group and with victory over hapless England looks likely.
Italy made a sloppy start that clouded their play, the Azzurri failed to shift it throughout the game, time and again showing lapses in ball retention. Sluggish and laboured, perhaps the consensus of the Italians prior to kick-off was simply to turn up and turn over the Costa Ricans. Uninspired, the opposition were at the races and made the Italians look altogether second best for long periods. Lacking imagination and fluidity in their play, Italy will have to step it up if they are to get the job done in their final group game against Uruguay, who will be buoyed by their win over England and confident of progressing.
There has been a number of “questionable” refereeing decisions during this World Cup, proving to undermine the “best” collective officiating at the best football competition on the planet. Costa Rica experienced such an injustice a few minutes prior to taking the lead through Bryan Ruiz. Giorgio Chiellini’s mistake let Campbell in on the charge to bear down on goal, before bringing him down in the box. It was a clearm penalty kick, but waved away by referee Enrique Osses. Perhaps had the result gone a different way, this decision would have overshadowed proceedings. Nevertheless, a bad call by the referee, on football grandest stage.
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