RIO DE JANEIRO, June 21, /ITAR-TASS/. Costa Rica’s second win and early qualification for the last 16 was the central event of day nine at the Soccer World Cup in Brazil. In the second match of the group stage the Jorge Luis Pinto-led squad overpowered Italy by one goal to nothing. Earlier, it outplayed Uruguay 3:1.
During the first half scoring opportunities were few. Just before the half-time whistle the referee refused to award a penalty against Italy for taking down Joel Campbell. It took Costa Rica’s captain Bryan Ruiz literally seconds to right this wrong with a beautiful header.
In the second half Costa Rica preferred to counter-attack. Substitutions put some extra muscle into Italy’s attacks but to no avail. Remarkably, few had suspected Costa Rica had chances of getting out of the group into the play-off stage. Next to Uruguay, Italy and England it looked an obvious outsider. It has turned otherwise. With six points on hand Costa Rica are getting ready for the first elimination match, while England, after losing the first two games, are packing their bags. Italy and Uruguay, each with three points after two matches will clash for the remaining vacancy.
In another Friday match, in group E, France quite expectedly outperformed Switzerland with a quite unexpectedly impressive score - by five goals to two. Switzerland’s stopper Didier Deschamps suffered a facial bone fracture and had to be substituted in the ninth minute. France scored thrice before halftime and twice after to decide now they could take it easy. Switzerland stepped up pressures to send the ball into the French net twice. This time France are demonstrating a quite remarkable scoring ability (eight goals in two matches), in contrast to the utter failure of four years ago, when they scored only once in three group matches and had to leave for home.
In another match in the same group Ecuador beat Honduras 2:1. Both teams made a brisk start, but with very few scoring chances, if at all. It all changed by the middle of the first half. Honduras was the first to score. Carlo Costi’s one-on-one encounter with Ecuador’s goalie ended with a powerful shot in the left corner. Ecuador’s Valencia responded with an equalizer four minutes later. In the second half he scored again.
After two rounds in this group all teams have retained chances. France has six points, Ecuador and Switzerland, three each, and Honduras, nothing. In the final round in Group E Ecuador will play France, and Honduras, Switzerland.
Friday’s good news for Russia was one of Belgium’s top players, Manchester United’s backer Vincent Kompany will be absent from the pitch on June 22 due to groin problems. Originally Kompany was expected to resume training on Saturday, but Belgium’s coach Marc Wilmots decided against taking risks, saying the team’s position in the group was good enough, so it would manage pretty well without Kompany for the time being.