BELO HORIZONTE - Unbeaten Costa Rica proudly marched into the second round of the World Cup, topping Group D containing three former winners after a 0-0 draw with already-eliminated England on Tuesday. The 'Ticos', assured of progress before kickoff after beating Italy and Uruguay in a spectacular start to their tournament, comfortably held their own against England, who endured their worst World Cup showing in 56 years.
Roy Hodgson's side failed to end the tournament on a high despite nine changes from the team beaten by Uruguay, in a game that was short on goalmouth action or any tension. Costa Rica, who had never before gone unbeaten in a World Cup group stage, will face the runners-up of Group C - likely to be one of Ivory Coast, Japan or Greece - in the last 16. Uruguay snatched the second ticket for the knockout stage after finishing on six points with a 1-0 win over Italy, who have three points. England bowed out at the group stage for the first time since the 1958 World Cup, finishing bottom on one point. "We played a very sure, dynamic game," Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto 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," he said after his team advanced to the second stage of the tournament for only the second time. 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 towards the end as frustration among English fans grew but they were quickly dealt with by stadium security. Some 200 England fans were forced to remain in an empty stadium long after the final whistle, surrounded by dozens of riot police and stewarts before being calmly escorted out. "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 briefly 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.
"It wasn't vintage, but we had enough chances to win the game," said Frank Lampard who captained England in what could be his last international. "Look at the fans up there, they're singing even though we got knocked out. It's a shame we couldn't do enough to take them through and given them a longer trip."