Costa Rica have secured top spot in Group D after a 0-0 draw with England in Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Mineirao. Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions created the better chances in this match, but they again failed to capitalise and head for home bottom of the section having failed to win any of their three matches.
Both sides had rung the changes for this match, with the outcomes of their respective group campaigns – qualification for Los Ticos, elimination for England – already assured. Costa Rica did have pole position still to play for, but there was a distinct lack of tension in the early play from both sides.
Joel Campbell has certainly done enough at this tournament to earn the right to play with a relaxed freedom, and it was the Olympiacos forward – aiming to impress parent club Arsenal – who first threatened, narrowly missing the far post with a deflected 20-yard effort after just two minutes. England’s much-altered line-up took some time to click, but when they did it was one of the Three Lions’ two ever-presents, Daniel Sturridge, who came close to breaking the deadlock, crashing a left-foot shot just wide of the right-hand post from 20 yards.
The sharp, busy Liverpool striker went close again from a similar distance soon after, but it was England’s goalkeeper, Ben Foster, who succeeded best in getting the fans off their seats. With 23 minutes played, Celso Borges curled in a magnificent free-kick from 25 yards that seemed destined for the top corner, but Foster matched the quality of the shot with a superb flying save, somehow tipping the ball on to the crossbar and over.
The best of the chances, though, continued to fall to Sturridge, who headed over from close range as the first half neared its conclusion and was then denied early in the second period when Keylor Navas raced from his line to save bravely at the striker’s feet. Perhaps the most glaring of all came and went on 65 minutes, when Sturridge worked a one-two with Jack Wilshere and, with the goal at his mercy, curled wide of the far post.
Wayne Rooney entered the fray as a late substitute and also threatened a breakthrough, forcing Navas into an agile tip-over with a beautifully weighted chip from just outside the box. But England were forced to contend themselves with a first point at Brazil 2014, while Costa Rica march on the Round of 16 unbeaten and as Group D winners.