When the groups were announced for this year’s World Cup, Group D was labeled as the group of champions. With previous World Cup winners Italy, England and Uruguay all paired in a group it was figured two of those three sides would advance.
Then along came lowly little Costa Rica. In a group filled with European superstars and teams with pedigrees a mile long, it was the country from CONCACAF who have become world beaters.
A shock 3-1 victory in the opening group match against a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay was enough to make Costa Rica the shock of the tournament already, but not many people predicted the Ticos to advance from the group first.
With four-time World Cup champions Italy, led by international superstars Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon, as the second group match many figured Costa Rica would have to wait until the final match against England to qualify.
Apparently no one told Bryan Ruiz or Junior Diaz.
Mainz 05 defender Junior Diaz lofted an inch perfect ball into PSV Eindhoven striker Bryan Ruiz in the Italian box, which was headed into the back of the net in the 44th minute to give Costa Rica the shocking win, and help the team advance to the knockout stages.
The play of the underdog has come at the expense of the rest of the group, most importantly England. Coming into the tournament, the English were supposed to be an up and coming group of youngster that would take Brazil by storm, instead, just two matches in, the Three Lions are no longer a part of the competition.
Two matches in, two losses, and no chance of advancement.
Costa Rica is set to finish off the group stages, with a chance to come out as top finishers in the group of champions, with a match against it’s opposite side in England.
With the English not playing for anything, except for pride, it isn’t beyond all belief that Costa Rica could get the result it needs, even potentially finishing with all nine available points.