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England’s World Cup rounded off with dour Costa Rica draw

England's Daniel Sturridge at the end of the game during the FIFA World Cup, Group D match at the Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, Brazil. England's Daniel Sturridge at the end of the game during the FIFA World Cup, Group D match at the Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
7:18 PM

We English all love an underdog, don’t we? Just a shame at this World Cup – blessed with the perfect footballing setting in Brazil – we have not been able to surprise our opponents.

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Costa Rica, meanwhile, have though - emphatically. The Central American nation has a population close to five million, and is ranked 28 in the world - according to the rather dubious FIFA rankings.

Jorge Luis Pinto, the Costa Rica coach, is also missing his supposed best two players in Everton’s Bryan Oviedo and Álvaro Saborío, his side’s top scorer in qualification, through injury.

Not that it has hindered them at all. They have surpassed all expectations topping the group going into the final round of matches of the group stage – beating both Uruguay and Italy – ranked seventh and ninth respectively.

Falling back on rankings seems a bit of a cop out, but Roy Hodgson could take heart from them when flying back to London after this match.

If his team could not live up to its billing as “an underdog” which could “spring a surprise” then where could they realistically finish in a group filled with the experience and talent of Italy and Uruguay?

This match – a dead rubber – was lacklustre. Both sides clearly affected by their previous two matches; England having lost both theirs, and Costa Rica having already secured their route to the second round.

The best chance of the match came when Celso Borges hit the bar with a sumptuous 25-yard free kick which Ben Foster tipped onto the bar in the first half.

England made nine changes from the Uruguay defeat. Not that it showed too much. England were bright in attack with Daniel Sturridge probing and pressing Costa Rica’s defence, but at the back again they looked short of class. It’s been the story of the Three Lions’ campaign.

Gary Cahill and co were nearly caught out by a hoof down the pitch just before half-time from Costa Rica’s keeper Keylor Navas but Randall Brenes’ shot on goal was blocked by recovering defenders.

The best chance for England came just after the hour mark when Sturridge – England’s only real bright spark of the three matches they have played – was played through by Jack Wilshire.

The striker, though, just could not direct his curling effort on target and it flashed past the far post. It was a chance that he may have netted with the Kop cheering him on.

Minutes later there was penalty claim when Sturridge was tackled by Giancarlo Gonzalez just as he was about to let his shot off. Replays showed the defender had got the ball albeit slightly unconventionally. The match petered after that. Costa Rica knew what they had to do to finish top of the group with Uruguay scoring a winner through Diego Godin on 81 minutes.

England had not shown enough nous to fulfil their underdog tag and were on the next flight home.

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