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World Cup 2014

Costa Rica 0 England 0: Highlights, key battles and what the result means

Published on Jun 25, 2014 2:55 AM
England's James Milner reacts during their 2014 World Cup Group D football match against Costa Rica at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte June 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

The Three Lions ended their brief journey in Brazil as they had started it: wounded, weary and win-less.

Despite making nine changes to their starting line-up, England limped to a goal-less draw with a disinterested Costa Rican outfit, who had set up to get the point they needed to top Group D, earning a Round-of-16 date with Greece.

With nothing but pride to play for, manager Roy Hodgson dropped stalwarts Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Joe Hart, favouring youngsters Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana. But, in a rare audition on the international stage, England's next generation did little to inspire confidence ahead of what could be a long and painful transition period.


- Ben Foster can at least return home with the knowledge that he pulled off one of the best saves at this World Cup. England's reserve goalkeeper acrobatically tipped over a Ceslo Borges free-kick that seemed certain to dip in at the top corner.

- Liverpool hitman Daniel Sturridge, who kept his place up front, had a handful of decent opportunities all to himself. The striker came closest when he bent his effort inches wide from a tight angle with just Costa Rican custodian Keylor Navas to beat.

- The loudest cheers were reserved for a moment of sheer skill and audacity. Fulham reserve Bryan Ruiz's drag-swivel-turn left Arsenal star Jack Wilshere trailing in his wake. It highlighted the confidence flowing through the Central American underdogs, who last progressed past the group stage at the 1990 edition.

Key battle

Celso Borges vs Frank Lampard

In perhaps his final international outing, Lampard - not the first time - was faultless in distributing the ball across the park. His set-piece deliveries were England's main attacking weapon, which would have proved lethal had Sturridge been more composed in front of goal.

Harassed by Borges, 10 years his junior, the Chelsea icon still looked a class apart - even from his own team-mates. It begs the question of just why Hodgson did not pair him with Gerrard earlier in the campaign when the team called out for a driving force from midfield.

For all the talk of Barkley's potential, the 36-year-old will be a tough act to follow in the Three Lions' engine room. Few others in the game possess Lampard's long-range shooting prowess and the ability to dictate the tempo of the game.

Man of the Match

Keylor Navas

In a match that will barely feature in the tournament wrap-up, Costa Rica's No. 1 stood out for making the six-yard box his own. England's plan to pump long balls over their opponents' backline backfired thanks to the anticipation and awareness of the Levante shot-stopper.

Not afraid to charge out of the box to clear the ball with his feet, the 27-year-old also did not put a glove wrong between the sticks. Sturridge was denied on several occasions, while Shaw's potent crosses were nullified by some safe handling.

Conceding just one goal in the 'Group of Death', Navas proved that Chile's Claudio Bravo and Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa are in for a fight to be named as the competition's best goalkeeper.

What the result means

On the back of their worst-ever World Cup showing, England begin their summer holidays with little joy and plenty of nagging questions. With Gerrard and Lampard set to announce their international retirement, Hodgson has to build his next team around the likes of Wilshere, Barkley and Lallana.

A decision also has to be made on Rooney - some want the Manchester United star to be dropped, even as others believe he should be the next captain. 

Having played the 90 minutes at a pedestrian pace, Costa Rica will be rested and resurgent for their Round-of-16 clash on Sunday. Striker Joel Campbell's thrust and trickery could be the key in unlocking the Greeks' rigid defensive setup.