Today’s set of matches could have a large impact on the tournament of England’s national football team; if Costa Rica avoid defeat against Italy then it would be impossible to progress. The teams in Group E were also in action, with the favourites to progress from the group, France, playing against Switzerland, whilst it was a battle of the Americas in the other game as Honduras entertained Ecuador.
Italy 0-1 Costa Rica
Underdogs Costa Rica were hoping to follow up their highly impressive defeat of Uruguay with a good result against Italy, who had produced a brilliant performance to defeat England. A point for Costa Rica would mean that it would be mathematically impossible for England to progress from the group stages. With Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon returning, there were hopes that Italy could comfortably go through to the next round. However, from the start, there were signs that the Italians were slightly jaded as poor passing and nerves from Buffon dominated the opening part of the match, whilst Mario Balotelli shot wide after a great pass from Andrea Pirlo. Then inexplicably Costa Rica were denied a penalty when Joel Campbell was cut across by an Italian defender, to which the referee made the wrong decision and denied them a penalty. However, Costa Rica were not to be denied, and a minute later Junior Diaz produced a tempting cross for Bryan Ruiz to smash past Buffon via the underside of the crossbar. It was a deserved goal for them though, with Italy still sluggish and producing little in the way of clear cut chances. The best chance came to Pirlo, whose dipping free kick was kept out by keeper Navas, but the result sees Costa Rica through to the last 16, whilst Italy have a crunch game against Uruguay in which a draw would be enough to also see them progress. This result also means that England are out of the World Cup in the group stages for the first time since 1958.
Switzerland 2-5 France
France have all but mathematically secured their place in the next round with the thrashing of an awful Swiss side. From the start it was clear that the French were in control, and Olivier Giroud’s goal from an unstoppable header was not undeserved. They doubled their lead a minute later when Blaise Matuidi took advantage of a sloppy mistake from a Swiss player. Switzerland were diabolical in the first half and the game looked to be over when Karim Benzema was brought down in the penalty area but, after dusting himself down, his penalty was saved by Diego Benaglio before Yohan Cabaye hit the rebound against the woodwork. However, the third goal was inevitable and it came five minutes before half time when Mathieu Valbuena converting a cross from Giroud. France did not let up yet though and scored two more goals in this match; Benzema scored his third of the tournament with a good finish, whilst Moussa Sissoko took advantage of more awful Swiss defending to make it 5-0. At that point France for some unknown reason turned off, and Switzerland took advantage by scoring two easy goals, with Blerim Dzemaili’s free kick beating Hugo Lloris from 40 yards, and Granit Xhaka beating the French offside trap to slot home. But this was France’s day, and progression to the last 16 will surely help to ease the pain of the awful performance in 2010.
Ecuador 2-1 Honduras
Ecuador defeated Honduras to keep them in the hunt of reaching the last 16, whilst confining the losers to be on the brink of going out. However, they had to come from behind as Carlo Costly gave Honduras the lead with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area. A deflected cross allowed Enner Valencia to slot into the net and the same player headed in at the far post to complete the turnaround for Ecuador. Just before that, Honduras thought that they had retaken the lead but Jerry Bengtson’s scrappy shot was disallowed for handball, but Ecuador held on after scoring their second goal, and now have to match Switzerland’s result against France to secure their place in the next round.