The Pernambuco Arena lived one of the most iconic scenes of the group phase of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Before thousands of fans in the stadium and millions more on television worldwide, Costa Rica wrote its own page in the history of football. Repeatedly referred to as the underdog whose main role was to help the big teams rack up on goal difference, the Central Americans went against all odds and ensured promotion into the round of sixteen after just two matches.
After beating Uruguay by 3-1 in its debut, Costa Rica beat Italy today by 1-0 in the Pernambuco Arena. The result eliminated England, who lost the first two matches, and turned the final-round clash between Italy and Uruguay (to be held in Natal) into at an early knockout, the winner of which eliminates the opponent and ensures a spot in the final 16. Costa Rica will now comfortably challenge England depending only on a draw to ensure first place in the group.
The hero of the match did not even need to swing the net to guarantee the triumph. Bryan Ruiz received a cross from the left flank at the 43rd minute and lodged a striking header. The ball hit keeper Buffon's crossbar and fell a few inches after the goal line. The World Cup's new goal-line technology was not required. The assistant referee himself had already raced to the middle of the field, indicating the validity of the goal that decreed the Costa Rican victory. Italy, counting on football stars such as Pirlo, Balotelli, De Rossi and Marchisio, failed to find any holes through the opposing defence.
From the subway station to the last fan leaving the stadium, the chorus at the Arena Pernambuco was one: “Olê, olê, olê! Ticos, Ticos!”. A mixture of relief and surprise overtook the faces of the Costa Rica fans, in sheer ecstasy with the result. “I honestly did not think we would beat two world champions in the first phase of the tournament. But the squad gave their best in the pitch. I'm very happy," said Costa Rica's Johnny Albarado before being swallowed by a wave of fellow countrymen coming down the stands.
For Clifton Broumand, a US fan now in his ninth World Cup, everyone wins with the mixture of cultures that the World Cup creates, regardless of which team takes the Cup home in the pitch. "This is the only place where you can see people from all over the world together just to enjoy themselves, to have fun. It is a universal celebration," he said.