One of the tournament’s groups of death has been blown wide open by the first games, as Costa Rica – the team with the least chance of going through amongst the four – won against Uruguay to put themselves in contention too.
Uruguay dominated the first half against Costa Rica and went in 1-0 up thanks to Edinson Cavani’s penalty on 25 minutes. Despite creating many chances, with much of the possession and little Costa Rican threat, they couldn’t extend their lead. Costa Rica came out the brighter of the sides after the break, though, and managed to first equalise and then take the lead 10 minutes into the half through well-worked goals from set pieces. Joel Campbell, of Arsenal, got Costa Rica’s first goal as he powered the ball into the net after picking it up from a cross. The same man, Cristian Bolanos, floated in another ball just minutes after and Oscar Duarte glanced the ball in at the near post with a header. Uruguay tried in vain to find an equaliser, with strikers Cavani and Diego Forlan close at times, but in the end Costa Rica grabbed another through Marco Urena, who made the most of space in Uruguay’s defence to draw the keeper out and coolly slide the ball past him to make certain of the win.
Italy won the other match in Group D as they beat England 2-1 in Manaus. England’s best player on the night Raheem Sterling almost scored a blistering goal minutes in and threatened regularly through the first half, but couldn’t beat Salvatore Sirigu. Italy played with composure and took the lead through an intricate corner routine, with Verrati picking the ball up and passing to Andrea Pirlo, who dummied the ball for Claudio Marchisio who had time to pick his spot at rattle the ball into Joe Hart’s net. England levelled not long after, with Sterling playing through Wayne Rooney on the left who delivered a good ball to the back post where Daniel Sturridge was waiting to score. Italy regained the lead not long after the second half began, with Antonio Candreva putting a great cross into the back post where Mario Balotelli evaded his marker Gary Cahill and headed past Hart. England couldn’t find the killer touch needed to find an equaliser and the Italian’s absorbed their pressure well, rarely looking as though the game was out of their control.
England play Uruguay on Thursday (8pm, ITV) in what will be a crucial match for both teams as they try to give themselves a chance of qualifying. While England’s defeat to Italy saw them play some good football, Uruguay’s performance was far below expectations. However, Uruguay could pick up again if Luis Suarez returns from injury and causes hassle to an England defence that is far from solid. If either side lose they could be eliminated from the competition if Italy v Costa Rica (Friday, 5pm, BBC) finishes as a draw. In that game Italy will be looking to secure a win that would almost certainly put them through, but will not underestimate a Costa Rican side that have proved they aren’t content with making up the numbers in Group D.