Costa Rica 0-0 England
24 June 2014
Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
World Cup Group D
Costa Rica retained the UFWC title and will take it into the World Cup round of 16 as winners of group D following this bore-draw with England. Costa Rica had taken the title from Uruguay and then beaten Italy to retain it. They only needed this draw in Belo Horizonte to secure top spot in the qualifying group. England, meanwhile, were playing for pride, but head home without winning a game at Brazil 2014.
Los Ticos have been one of the biggest surprise packages of a entertaining and unpredictable tournament. Coach Jorge Luis Pinto has impressed with his meticulous preparation and effective tactics, setting up his energetic team to nullify opponents. That was certainly the case here, as Costa Rica closed England down while only rarely threatening to score.
Stand-out star Joel Campbell started up front, with captain Bryan Ruiz behind him, but neither were much involved in the game. Roy Miller and Randall Brenes came into the side in the only two changes to the team that had beaten Italy and Uruguay.
England manager Roy Hodgson, on the other hand, made nine changes to the team that lost to both Italy and Uruguay. He gave starts to squad members Ben Foster, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Jack Wilshere, Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley and James Milner, and handed the captain’s armband to Frank Lampard for what will likely be his final England appearance.
Costa Rica had the first half-chance of the match, a Campbell shot deflecting off Gary Cahill’s backside and looping wide of the England goal. The crowd sang ‘England’s going home’, and chanted ‘Eliminados!’ But the Three Lions gradually began to control the game, without creating many clear-cut goalscoring opportunities.
Daniel Sturridge looked the man most likely to score for England, curling a shot wide of Keylor Navas’s post. then whacking another shot from 20 yards after spotting Navas off his line. Sturridge also headed over the bar following a corner, and unsuccessfully claimed a penalty after being clumsily challenged in the box.
But it was Costa Rica who came closest to scoring in the first half, with a Celso Borges free-kick that looked to be heading for the top corner before Foster tipped it onto the crossbar.
Sturridge had another couple of half-chances for England in the second half, but failed to score. Roy Hodgson introduced subs Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, and Rooney’s attempted chip was tipped over by Navas. But other than that it was a pretty poor ending to a pretty poor match, with both sides displayed a lack of quality in the final third of the pitch. Whether that lack of quality will hinder Costa Rica as they head into the knockout stages remains to be seen, but they are likely to remain hard to beat.
The Unofficial Football World Champions will take the UFWC title with them into the last 16, where it will now remain in play right through to the final. (If England had won, they would have taken the UFWC title home with them.) This means the official and unofficial titles will be ‘unified’ for the ninth time in their history. You can read more about the crossover history of the World Cup and the UFWC here.
As the winners of group D, Costa Rica will play the runners up of group C on Sunday, 29 June, at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife.
UPDATE: Following their last-gasp 2-1 win over Ivory Coast, we now know that the group C runners up are Greece. So the next UFWC title match will be Costa Rica vs Greece on Sunday, 29 June. Greece have won 11 previous UFWC title matches, the last of which was in 2008 against Cyprus. One of the goalscorers was current captain Kostas Katsouranis, who was sent-off in Greece’s recent World Cup match against Japan. Greece drew with Japan 0-0, having lost 3-0 to Colombia, and qualified for the last 16 courtesy of a stoppage time penalty from Georgios Samaras. Costa Rica and Greece have never played each other in senior competition.
You can find out everything you need to know about the UFWC in our official handbook, Unofficial Football World Champions, which contains a complete history of the unofficial competition. The 2014 edition, updated for the World Cup, is out now.