BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - Costa Rica marched into the second round of the World Cup proudly top of a Group D containing three former winners after a 0-0 draw with already-eliminated England on Tuesday.
The ‘Ticos’, assured of progress before kickoff, comfortably held their own against an England team showing nine changes from the team beaten by Uruguay in a game short on goalmouth action or any real tension.
Costa Rica will face the runners-up of Group C - likely to be one of Ivory Coast, Japan or Greece - in the last 16. Uruguay finished second on six points with Italy on three and England, in their worst World Cup showing since 1958, on one.
“We played a very sure, dynamic game,” Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto, whose team beat former World Cup winners Uruguay and Italy in their other games, said. “I have enjoyed the three games. We’re unbeaten, it’s historic.”
“Now we’re going to prepare our best. First, a bit of rest.”
The confident Central Americans showed their attacking credentials from the start with forward Joel Campbell seeing his deflected shot sail narrowly wide.
England struggled to find their footing with the Costa Ricans a step quicker to the ball but Jack Wilshere showed some urgency when he burst through the defence to set up Daniel Sturridge but he fired wide after 12 minutes.
Their opponents responded with a close call of their own when Celso Borges’s curling freekick was tipped on to the crossbar by keeper Ben Foster.
The atmosphere in the 57,000-crowd at the Mineirao was subdued with only the small contingency of Costa Rican fans making some noise and their English counterparts playing with beach balls until they were confiscated.
There were also minor scuffles in the stands as frustration among English fans grew but they were quickly dealt with by stadium security.
“It’s hollow,” said England coach Roy Hodgson. “We showed today what a good team we can be. I’m so disappointed not to finish with a victory but I don’t think I could have asked for a better performance.
“Today I think we were really unlucky not to win this game. I’m pleased we’ve given the fans something to cheer about in terms of our performance.“
England improved in the second half with some better passing moves and Sturridge again went close with a low drive.
Wayne Rooney, a late substitute, tested keeper Keylor Navas with an 18-metre chip but the 1966 World Cup winners’ last stand in Brazil did little to lift their spirits after yet another disappointing performance.