SAO PAULO: Another European soccer heavyweight fell to Latin American opposition on Friday as Costa Rica shocked Italy 1-0, putting the four-times champions’ qualification in doubt, but France thumped Switzerland 5-2 in an imperious World Cup display.
After yet another upset in Brazil, Costa Rica’s win put them top of Group D and eliminated England, while Italy and Uruguay must now fight it out for the other qualification spot when they meet in Natal on Tuesday.
In the Friday’s third game, goals in each half from striker Enner Valencia gave Ecuador a 2-1 win over Honduras in World Cup Group E to boost their hopes of making the last 16.
France top the group with six points, while Ecuador and Switzerland each have three. Honduras have now lost twice and are facing likely elimination.
Uruguay received a boost on Friday, after it was confirmed that Luis Suarez would be fit to face Italy in a game the South Americans must win to qualify. The forward scored both goals in the 2-1 victory over England on Thursday.
That will add to concerns for Italy after they were humbled by Costa Rica with the central Americans putting in another impressive performance after earlier defeating Uruguay 3-1.
Bryan Ruiz’s header in the first half separated the sides, leaving delirious Costa Rica fans dancing in the sunshine at Recife’s Pernambuco arena after a second successive win.
“We kept our heads. It was a beautiful match… The people of Costa Rica deserve this. They supported the team and me. This was for them,” said ecstatic coach Jorge Luis Pinto.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli sought to stay positive ahead of the Uruguay clash, with his side needing a draw to qualify due to superior goal difference.
“Right now I don’t think we need to be negative, we need to think about recovering our energies because we have another game in a few days’ time, we play against Uruguay and whether we qualify depends on that,” Prandelli told reporters.
He also refused to blame the midday tropical heat in Recife for the defeat.
“We know about the calendar, we’ve known it for some time,” Prandelli said. “It’s useless to try and find excuses, we’re not looking for excuses, we have to be ready at the kickoff.”
A Brazilian judge on Friday ordered FIFA to follow its own guidelines and stop play at all World Cup games every 30 minutes for a water break if the temperature is 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) or higher.
FIFA played down the significance of the decision.
“We did not reach or exceed 32 degrees at any moment in any game so far,” FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said.
“The court is only ordering us to follow our own procedures which we have always planned to do.”
FRANCE MARCH ON
There was no upset in the second match, with France beating Switzerland 5-2 in Salvador in an entertaining, end-to-end game full of chances that made great viewing for the neutral.
For Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld it was an altogether more painful experience as he watched his defence torn apart by wave after wave of attacks from France’s forward line.
The emphatic win continued France’s World Cup rehabilitation as they seek to bury the ghosts of four years ago, when a player revolt left their reputation stained.
Coach Didier Deschamps likened the team spirit to that of 16 years ago when he played in the France side that won the World Cup on home soil.
“It is the same thing that we saw in 1998. While we cannot compare each changing room, I have a very focused group at present, they have a mindset that they want to maintain, even those who play less. There is a force that is rising,” he said.
“(While) this is not a guarantee of success, in addition to our qualities this mindset is very important.”
At 5-0 down, Blerim Dzemaili rifled home a long-range free kick that slid under the French wall, and Granit Xhaka added a second with a fine volley close to full time, making it the highest scoring game of the Brazil World Cup so far.
Earlier, France striker Karim Benzema had become joint top scorer with his third goal of the tournament, stabbing home neatly from substitute Paul Pogba’s sublime pass.
On Saturday, Argentina meet Iran in Belo Horizonte and Nigeria take on Bosnia in Cuiaba in Group F. Germany face Ghana in Group G in Fortaleza.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella has confirmed he will start with the more attacking 4-3-3 formation favoured by Lionel Messi and, even at a tournament as unpredictable as this, a win for Iran is almost unthinkable.
However, their coach Carlos Queiroz begged to differ.
“I would bet all my stakes on Iran because this is my personality,” he said on the eve of the match.
The coaches of England and Spain, both out of the tournament in shock early exits, won the backing of their respective soccer authorities on Friday.
The Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) said it wanted Vicente del Bosque to remain in the job, according to secretary general Jorge Perez.
And the chairman of England’s Football Association, Greg Dyke, similarly voiced support for Roy Hodgson, saying that, despite the disappointing results, the future looked brighter.
“There are a lot of young players who got blooded here and got into tournament football,” he said.
There was tragedy off the pitch as the Ivorian Football Federation confirmed that the younger brother of Kolo and Yaya Toure died in Manchester aged 28. Media reports said Ibrahim lost his life after a short battle with cancer.
It is unlikely the Toure brothers will depart from the World Cup. Ivory Coast play their last Group C game in Fortaleza on Tuesday with a chance to qualify for the knockout stage. (Reuters)