Desmond Kane

Costa Rica idol mocked in English football ends England’s farcical World Cup campaign

Desmond Kane

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Costa Rica's forward Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during a Group D match between Italy and Costa Rica at the Pernambuco Arena in Recife during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 20, 2014.

Has there been a more dismal eight days in the history of the English national side? If there has, it is difficult to recall. Certainly not at a World Cup in living memory. Costa Rica's inspired 1-0 win over an insipid Italy in Recife secured their progress to the last 16 from Group D, but also signalled the end for England less than 24 hours after their late defeat to Uruguay.

These finals only began last Thursday. England's departure was sealed the following Friday. Such a brutal exit comes only six days after Roy Hodgson's cursed side contested their opening match against Italy quietly confident in their ability to compete. Remember all those pre-tournament concerns? All those worries about the state of the pitch and the humidity in Manaus?

Could England adapt to the jungle? Would Southampton full-back Luke Shaw be ready to make the step up to the full squad? Could Wayne 'Wazza' Rooney finally deliver for his country at a World Cup?

Months and months of worrying for nothing. Literally nothing. No points. No longer any hope. Safe travel home, lads.

It must be said, England's World Cup has been utterly shambolic. And slightly chaotic. A couple of 2-1 defeats to Italy and Uruguay, some will say unfortunate, others will suggest careless - many will say predictable - left them relying on Italy to bail them out of a hole in Recife. It didn't sound like a promising idea. Relying on favours from others never is.

Italy required wins against Costa Rica and then Uruguay to keep England's hopes viable, but Cesare Prandelli's sluggish lot never looked capable of obliging.

Adding to a plot quite difficult to fathom was the identity of the figure who finally called time on England in Brazil. When the final twist of the knife came for England, it was not Luis Suarez or Mario Balotelli standing over the corpse with a dagger. The final murderous act was carried out by man who had been deemed not good enough to play among English football's elite.

Bryan Ruiz's winning header prior to half-time was perhaps the final insult towards Roy Hodgson's squad in a tournament that has unravelled quite astonishingly for England only eight days after it began. The tournament has yet to get into full swing, and they have been ejected from the party.


The defining moment for England came when Júnior Díaz threw in a wonderful probing cross as Ruiz nodded the ball into the net off the underside of the bar a minute before half-time. It was justice after Costa Rica were denied an obvious penalty when the pacy Arsenal youngster Joel Campbell was bundled to the deck by a flailing Giorgio Chiellini.

Coming after a 3-1 beating of Uruguay, a 1-0 win over Italy was a magnificent and merited result for a vibrant array of Costa Rica players, a bunch said to be the best crop in the history of the Central American country with a population of less than five million. London has double the population.

Jorge Luis Pinto's team, and they are a real unit, look better equipped to continue their progress than the vintage of 1990 who did for Scotland and Sweden in reaching the last 16 in Italy.

Unlike England, they pressed and pressed Italy, and forced them back. Still, nobody expected them to be the first country from the group to qualify for the last 16 at the expense of former winners Italy, Uruguay and England, nations with seven World Cups between them.

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Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica scores his team's first goal past Gianluigi Buffon of Italy during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Italy and Costa Rica at Arena Pernambuco on June 20, 2014.

Staggeringly, the attacking midfielder Ruiz scored only one goal in 14 games for Fulham prior to Christmas last season. In total, he has made 51 appearances in the Premier League with only eight goals. He is captain of his country, but spent the latter half of the season on loan at PSV Eindhoven.

He was a figure signed by Martin Jol three years ago, but not trusted to help the London side in a relegation fight after the Dutch coach was sacked earlier in the season. Fulham ended up losing their bid to stay up. It is doubtful if Ruiz will rejoin them in the Championship.

For a man signed for £10.6 million in 2011, he has been desperately disappointing at Craven Cottage.

As a Fulham supporter told me earlier today: "He is not a cult figure, not even somebody to lampoon. A lot of Fulham fans are unhappy with his contribution because he was such a waste of money. Hopefully, we might get some money back now he is doing well in Brazil."

Buying players on the strength of how they perform at World Cups tends to be a dodgy policy - think Ilie Dumitrescu joining Spurs in 1994 and 'World Cup winner' Stéphane Guivarc'h heading for Newcastle United in 1998 - but Ruiz and his pals are likely to attract some attention after occupying the official role of tournament 'surprise packages'.

The groans from the English base in Rio de Janeiro were palpable when they sat down to watch this at their hotel. England will play one more match against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday before flying home with plenty of regrets alongside the duty free. Costa Rica need a draw to ensure progressing as group winners.

It is difficult not to feel a little dazed and ask the question: how did it end like this for the England team? Sitting and studying a match between Costa Rica and Italy, hoping that the result would fall in their favour before realising that it was time to abandon all hope. And vacate their hotel.

The moody Mario blew Italy's most obvious chance to give England hope of redemption when he lifted the ball wide of goal when played in by Andrea Pirlo in the first half before their evening went downhill quite badly.

The Azzurri are now in a dogfight with Uruguay in a winner-takes-all joust to qualify for the last 16. But at least both have the knowledge that they live to fight another day.

Balotelli had suggested he wanted a kiss from the Queen if he had helped to work a miracle for England. Instead he assisted in delivering the kiss of death.

Apart from wondering why Coleen Rooney, the only WAG on the scene, bizarrely washed up in Rio with 15 suitcases for what is an elongated weekend break, England have to make sense of what has gone on in South America.

Being forced to face another match when all is lost does not sound appealing.

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