Júnior Díaz set Bryan Ruiz up with an excellent cross. The team captain headed the ball past Italy’s keeper, clanging it off the crossbar and just barely across the goal line at the 44th minute. That’s all the Ticos would need. Costa Rica closed out Italy in a 1-0 victory.
Ruiz had endured a couple of rough years while playing in England for Premier League club Fulham. At the beginning of this year, he was shipped out on loan to PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and there Ruiz began reviving his career. Although his future with Fulham remains unclear, today’s brilliant header hushed his detractors in Brazil. His goal actually eliminated the English squad from the World Cup. More importantly, the score allowed Costa Rica to qualify for the knockout stage of Brazil 2014.
This is the second time Costa Rica has advanced to the second round of the tournament, matching the success of the 1990 team (which qualified by beating Sweden on June 20, 1990 — 24 years to the day of today’s feat). The Ticos did it this time by shocking the Group of Champions. Costa Rica’s three opponents have a combined seven previous World Cup titles, but La Sele didn’t merely survive. Jorge Luis Pinto’s squad outplayed both Italy and Uruguay in reaching the next round.
The Ticos will try to clinch the top spot in Group D on Tuesday at 10 a.m. against England. Costa Rica’s next match will take place either June 28 or June 29 against one of the qualifiers from Group C.
Thank you Justin Russo for the GIFs. See high-quality versions (we had to shrink them down) on his Twitter feed @FlyByKnite.