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Ruiz header gives Costa Rica stunning victory over Italy

BryanRuizCostaRica1-Italy2014WorldCup (Getty)


Costa Rica can no longer be considered minnows in the big ocean that is the World Cup.

For the second straight match, Los Ticos stunned a higher ranked opponent at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, this time defeating Italy, 1-0, at the Arena Pernambucano in Recife. Bryan Ruiz’s header just before halftime proved to be the difference as Costa Rica stifled the Italian midfield and frustrated the Azzurri attack.

Goal-line technology was used to prove the header crossed the line.

With the win, Costa Rica has qualified for the knockout stage for the second time in the CONCACAF nation’s history, while England has officially been eliminated from the World Cup.

Costa Rica pressed high up the field from the opening whistle, forcing turnovers from Italy’s midfield, a midfield that looked so sound on Saturday against England. Los Ticos looked much more comfortable with the heat, which allowed them to keep up the pressure as well as relieve pressure when dribbling out of the back.

Not long after Costa Rica goalkeeper Keilor Navas made a nice diving save on a half-volleyed strike from Italy’s Mario Balotelli, Los Ticos had a strong shout for a penalty kick, as forward Joel Campbell was taken out by Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Though Costa Rica head coach Jorge Luis Pinto lost his cool at the no-call, Costa Rica settled down and found a goal just before the halftime break.

The game-changing moment came in the 44th minute, as Costa Rica left back Junior Diaz advanced down the left wing. Diaz sent in a booming cross towards the far post, a cross that Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon misjudged. After initially coming off his line, Buffon retreated, allowing Ruiz a clean header.

Ruiz’s header smashed off the underside of the crossbar and just crossed the line, confirmed moments later by goal-line technology, giving Costa Rica the 1-0 lead.

Italy controlled possession in the second half but was very sloppy with the ball, turning it over and allowing Costa Rica to counter attack in the heat.

Navas came up big in the second half for Costa Rica as well, forcing a Mattio Darmian shot from the inside left channel over the bar and producing a diving save on an Andrea Pirlo free kick in the 53rd minute.

Costa Rica’s five-man back line kept the door shut on Balotelli, and Christian Bolaños and Celso Borges both worked hard defensively and initiated counter attacking opportunities to relieve Los Ticos from pressure.


  1. Heh. It’s Saturday and I’m still excited for our Costa Rican rivals. I think their upsets, Mexico’s resurgent showing, and our gutsy victory over our African nemesis have really highlighted the growth in the region, despite Honduras’ struggles.

    KGE seems to think that Ochoa > Howard, not sure I agree, but both Ochoa and Navas have earned stars so far!

    Wearing RED WHITE AND BLUE on Sunday to church, at home, and for the game! Lots to do today and it’s hard to stay focused. I hope the team is gelling in resolute intensity for the task ahead. BEAT THE HELL OUT OF PORTUGAL!

  2. I know it’s early, but I was thinking about a “CONCACAF Starting XI.”

    After two games each (except the USA), here’s what I have:

    ___ Dempsey (USA)____ Campbell (CR)____Dos Santos (MEX)___

    ____Jones (USA)_______Vazquez (MEX)______Bolanos (CR)____

    Layun (MEX)____Gonzalez (CR)____Cameron (USA)____Duarte (CR)

    ______________________Ochoa (MEX)______________________

    That’s 3 from USA, 4 from Costa Rica, and 4 from Mexico—and no one from Honduras.

    I wanted to get Bryan Ruiz in there after today’s performance, but wasn’t sure who to drop. Also was torn between Dos Santos and Peralta, but went with the former after his two disallowed goals in the first match.


  3. Costa Rica’s defense

    what does it mean when it’s called organized? in part it’s their backline’s unison in playing the offside trap with the midfield’s smart ball pressure, and in part the it’s space between the two lines of midfield and back line which Costa Rica is diligent in holding and keeping, and in part it’s the pressure Campbell puts on the opposing team’s back line and how they look for him without fail,

    but what Costa Rica does so well that’s so difficult for other team’s to crack is how they matchup M2M defensively from out of their back 5 zone into the space and gaps in front of them, the space and gaps where the opposing team tries to move and play thru, that space between the lines of midfield and backline…where Italy tried and failed repeatedly to connect

    many teams just put a guy in there, a destroyer who hunts that space defensively in between the two defensive lines.

    Costa Rica does too, except all 5 guys along the back line share that responsibility depending on where the other team’s players show up in the gap and space in front of them between midfield and back lines. they step up to cover whoever steps in there. like a basketball matchuip zone if that helps to conceptualize

    anyway, VERY COOL. why don’t all do it if it’s so cool? VERY HARD to do!

      • hey GW, idk. would have been even better on the counter maybe tho; Urrena came in for a gassed Campbell and was not a threat, got owned by Chiellini 1V1. Costa Rica super sweet defensively for a long time now. a team who can cross effectively from the flanks and hammer them home can score on them imo

      • Saborio can be a frickin monster and it’s a shame he’s not part of this run.

        I just saw Honduras blow a perfectly good chance to tie Ecuador and never mind CONCACAF, this is quite a coming out party for US soccer and MLS, current and former, guys in the World Cup. This means you Andy Najar and Roger Espinoza a former Buckeye of all things.

        And of course Vedad Ibisevic of Bosnia may be the only former Billiken and NCAA freshman of the year to ever score in the World Cup.

        I’ve lost track of them all,(isn’t one of the Ecuador players on Chivas USA?) but this must be some sort of record for players with ties to US soccer participating in the World Cup.

      • yes, been nice to see! even Geiger is in on it gaining respect for MLS and US soccer around the globe…an MLS ref??? never would I have thought that

  4. If CONCACAF teams are fairing so well, and go deep into the tournament, and Wondo scored so many goals in the Gold Cup, then I guess logically he should start up top in place of Jozy. also, it would add salt to the wound of leaving LD behind because he played so well at the Gold Cup. too early to start bragging I guess but I am glad for the Ticos. hopefully CONCACAF will get some respect. I think we have a real good chance at beating Portugal and moving on. if we advance we have the potential to go far

  5. wow…good job Ticos…

    it’s all about the Time Zones- Europeans internal clocks are screwed up, while CONCACAF fits right in…

    CONCACAF thus far
    Wins: Cameroon, Uruguay, Ghana, Italy
    Ties: Brazil
    Losses: France

    not too shabby….

    • Yeah I thought before the tournament that there was a good chance CONCACAF and CONMEBOL teams would do well while UEFA teams were primed to have difficulties. Well certain UEFA teams especially. (coughenglandcough)

    • a lot of it may be the climate and atmoshpere of the arenas too… those of us in the Western Hemisphere play in these types of conditions all the time. The games have been wide open and high scoring, much like the domestic leagues in central and south america…

      our experience in qualifying has and will certainly help us the rest of the way…

      and I’m thankful for the snow game, Costa Rica would give us a hell of match on USA soil under normal conditions

      • This is why I think you have to go with Wondo over Aron. Aron’s never really gone 90 in the type of conditions we’re likely to see. Guys like Jones and Fabian struggled with it early on for us but now know what to expect. If or nothing else let Wondo just pressure the center backs for 70 minutes.

      • Dangit Jack, I had just settled in my mind between Aron and Wondo and went with Aron. Now you’re making be second-guess—well, second-guess my second-guessing.

        I dunno though. Aron seems like he could run forever. And at 6-ft tall and only 154 lbs, he’s not carrying a lot of weight around.

  6. Listened to ESPN World Cup radio broadcast. Guess Ireland has different slang, cause Irish broadcaster and American commenting together. Talking about a player underperforming for Italy:

    Irish: He just didn’t have that little bit a “jizz” in him today.

    American: Little bit a WHAT?!

    Irish: Jizz

    American: (Laughs) Okay, back to the game…

    5 minutes later – after note was probly slipped to him, Irish guy gives out of the blue explanation that jizz is slang for “get up and go”, lol.

  7. Worth noting that Italy blew a few good chances, and that the sidelines refs missed some easy onside and offside calls. With a different ref CR could have had two PKs as well. (One before the goal, and the last in the final minutes).

  8. So I guess we can quit using the “its only against CONCACAF opponents” qualifying statement when discussing our performances in Gold cup and World cup qualifying?

  9. How pissed do you think Platini is that the goal line technology was used to beat Italy? Oh the irony. No cheating on this one Michele. Betcha he was on the phone to Brazil near the end of the match saying something like this “You tell those refs to add ten minutes if they have to, or don’t go back to their hotels.” In your FACE, Fifa!

  10. I had Italy winning this one 3 – 0. Very happy to be so surprised. Let’s hope these Euro powers keep looking past skilled, gritty American teams.


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