When the world cup 2014 groups were announced no one gave Costa Rica any chance in a group that had three teams in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings. However, with football there is no certainty and as this world cup has proven â€“ football does not respect names.
Costa Rica pulled off one of the shocks of the tournament when they beat Uruguay 3-1 in their opening match of group D. In their next game they were to face former world champions Italy who boasted some of the best players in the planets.
The Central Americans started brightly and almost had the lead from a corner but defender Celso headed over the post. Italyâ€™s strike Balotelli should have given his team the lead when he latched on to an amazing Pirlo pass only to chip the ball over the keeper but off the mark. That was followed up by another opportunity two minutes later but the Costa Rican keeper was able to produce a fine save.
Costa Rica continued to knock on the door and Christian Bolanos forced Buffon into a fine save. There was controversy in the 43rd minute when Joel Campbell was denied an obvious penalty after being brought down by Chiellini in the box. That would have been the talk of the game had it ended at a draw but justice was served a minute later when Costa Ricaâ€™s captain Ruiz headed in the ball to give his team the lead going into the break.
The Italian coach brought in Antonio Cassano after the restart to provide some support for Balotelli. The Italian started the brighter of the teams, dictating possession and forcing a fine save from the Costa Rican keeper but they werenâ€™t able to find the back of the net and Costa Rica held on to a famous victory and their second major upset of the tournament.
The victory assured the Central Americans a place in the last 16 and set up a mouth watering clash between Italy and Uruguay with the winner progressing to the knock out face. The win also sealed Englandâ€™s fate and they are knocked out off the tournament early for the first time in over 50 years.
Group E teams, France and Switzerland, faced off in the second match of the day with the winner increasing their chances of progression to the next round.
The French coach made a change to his starting eleven with Arsenalâ€™s Giroud making his first start in the 2014 world cup. His team was quick off the block and took the lead in the 16th minute with Giroud rising highest to head in from a corner. The fans were not done celebrating before Matuidi scored a minute later after Benzema had intercepted the ball and put him through on goal.
The Swiss made every attempt to bring themselves back in the game but it was the French who had the next chance. Benzema was brought down in the box and stepped up to take the penalty but the Swiss keeper was up to the challenge and produced a fine save before Debuchy hit the rebound off the bar.
France did get its third in the 40th minute after a quick counter attack set off Giroud who sent a low cross for Valbuena to tap in.
The second half started as brightly as the first and Benzema made amends for his missed penalty, first getting his third goal of the tournament before creating space for Sissoko to score Franceâ€™s fifth.
That was not the end though as Switzerland fought back with two late goals. Dzemailiâ€™s shot from a free kick squeezed past the wall to beat Hugo Lloris before Xhaka scored the second when he met Inlerâ€™s chip over the French defense to volley the ball into the back of the net.
Benzema was denied a stunning goal in the last minute of the game after the whistle was blown before his strike had hit the back of the net.
France would be through if Honduras beat Ecuador in the final game of the day.
Hondurasâ€™ coach made two changes from the team that lost to France while Ecuadorâ€™s coach made just one change to the side that lost to Switzerland.
Ecuador had a chance to take the lead but their main striker E. Valencia missed the target in a one-on-one with Hondurasâ€™ keeper.
The game came to life at the half hour mark after Ecuadorâ€™s defense failed to deal with Brayanâ€™s long pass and Honduras striker Costly made them pay by finding the back of the net with left-footed strike.
Three minutes later Ecuador was level. E. Valencia was quickest to react to Juan Carlosâ€™s deflected shot from the right to tap in the equalizer. The first half ended with the team level.
The 20 minutes of the second half saw each team have a chance to take the lead but it was the Ecuadorians who would have the last laugh as Valencia rose highest to nod in Walterâ€™s set-piece and give his team the winning goal.
The win sent Ecuador joint second in the group and set up an interesting final round of group matches with them facing France and Switzerland facing Honduras. A win for Ecuador and Switzerland would mean all three teams having six points and the group would be decided by goal difference.