Italy suffered a World Cup shock when beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica, who qualify for the knockout stages.
Due to goal difference, the Nazionale can still qualify with a draw against Uruguay, but England are mathematically out of the tournament.
Both teams had won their opening games and were joint top of Group D with Uruguay, who had three points from two matches. Gigi Buffon and Andrea Barzagli shook off injuries to start, while Ignazio Abate and Thiago Motta came in for Gabriel Paletta and Marco Verratti, moving Matteo Darmian to left-back. Costa Rica fielded the same side that beat Uruguay 3-1 in a shock opener with Arsenal-owned forward Joel Campbell one to fear.
Despite playing at 13.00 local time, FIFA ruled against using time-outs or cooling breaks in Recife’s Arena Pernambuca.
There was an early danger when Celso Borges nodded a corner over the bar and Oscar Duarte was fortunate to avoid a yellow for his tactical foul on Claudio Marchisio.
Italy struggled with Costa Rica corners and the heat, as Mario Balotelli’s touch let him down when running on to a Thiago Motta ball over the top. Balo knocked down another assist for Thiago Motta, who scuffed the finish wide.
Balotelli had a fantastic chance to score on 31 minutes from Pirlo’s inspired first-time pass, but his lob was off target with Keylor Navas stranded.
Moments later SuperMario hit a half-volley that Navas beat away, the Levante goalkeeper getting it back under control before Marchisio could pounce.
Costa Rica also threatened, as Buffon got down to beat away a long-range Christian Bolanos strike and Duarte’s backwards header was just over from a smart Bryan Ruiz chipped pass.
Italy ran a huge risk on 42 minutes when Campbell pounced on a Chiellini error to run into the box and was pulling the trigger when falling under the Juve man’s nudge, but the referee waved away strong penalty appeals.
Moments later it was 1-0 to Costa Rica, as Junior Diaz whipped a cross from the left on to the head of Ruiz, ricocheting off the underside of the bar to beat Buffon.
Antonio Cassano replaced the disappointing Thiago Motta at half-time, moving to a 4-1-3-2 system. Balotelli also had penalty appeals, as Duarte went through the back and did not appear to get the ball, but again the referee waved play on.
Navas performed a fingertip save on the Darmian strike and then palmed away a Pirlo free kick. Lorenzo Insigne was another substitute for Antonio Candreva, but Costa Rica held firm under pressure and kept their offside trap working well, the flag raised more often than any other game in this World Cup.
Alessio Cerci of Torino replaced Marchisio as Italy concluded with a very attacking 4-4-2 approach, but Balotelli received a booking for an off the ball shirt tug.
Cassano tried to thread it through for Cerci when Insigne was in a better position, while the Napoli talent’s chest and volley was too audacious to pull off.
Chiellini was decisive to charge down a Marcos Urena counter-attack in the penalty area, then Cerci wandered offside from a Cassano assist.
Cassano was at full stretch when trying to get on the end of a corner in the final minute and in stoppages Brenes curled just off target.
Italy 0-1 Costa Rica
Scorers: Ruiz 44 (C)
Italy: Buffon; Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Darmian; De Rossi; Candreva (Insigne 57), Pirlo, Thiago Motta (Cassano 46), Marchisio (Cerci 70); Balotelli
Costa Rica: Navas; Gamboa, Duarte, Gonzalez, Umana, Diaz; Ruiz (Brenes 81), Borges, Tejeda (Cubero 68), Bolanos; Campbell (Urena 74)
Ref: Osses (CHI)
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