As if the first eight days of the World Cup weren't already teeming with excitement, Day 9 brought much of the same, with another slate of huge fixtures.
While everyone in the United States is looking forward to Sunday night, when Team USA yet again takes the pitch, Friday's action impacted a slew of countries in the running. Just a day after England suffered a 2-1 loss, the Three Lions saw their chance at advancing take another huge hit Friday.
Several other clubs met a similar fate on Day 9, with their hopes of advancing to the knockout stage quickly fading. Following Italy vs. Costa Rica, Switzerland and France will look to continue their winning ways, while Honduras and Ecuador will hope to earn points after frustrating starts.
Here's a look at the updated group tables, results and recaps from Day 9 in Brazil.
|Group||Team 1||Score/Time (ET)||Team 2|
Costa Rica 1, Italy 0
Coming into Friday's contest, Mario Balotelli was confident that Italy was strong enough to beat Costa Rica.
He was so sure, in fact, that he believed he should earn an extra incentive if the Italians saved England by winning the match. The AC Milan striker shared his desired prize on his personal Twitter account:
If we beat Costa Rica i want a kiss,obviously on the cheek, from the UK Queen.😂😂😂.— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) June 19, 2014
That kiss didn't look so certain in the first half of play against Costa Rica.
Following two opportunities for the 23-year-old striker, he came away with no goals and two poor finishes. Rather than putting his team up early on in the match, Balotelli was forced to watch as Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica secured a lead for his country heading into the half.
It was a huge moment for Costa Rica, who had never accomplished that feat, per ESPN FC:
For the Italians, it was a huge blow. After not seizing early opportunities, upstart Costa Rica looked like the better team on the pitch.
Italy also holds a poor record when trailing at the half on the big stage, as ESPN Stats and Info notes:
Tempers flared as both countries headed to the locker rooms after the surprising first half of play. As both teams entered the tunnel, fisticuffs were exchanged before the two separated.
Bleacher Report UK provided a look at the apparent scuffle:
Following an exciting finish for the Costa Ricans to close out the first half, they came out much more defensive in the second. While Italy was looking to open up offensive opportunities, the once-proud club was unable to come through.
By the end of the match, Costa Rica stood tall and ultimately sealed the fate of another once-proud country, per Bleacher Report:
Costa Rica came away with a massive victory, but it came at a cost for the English fans. England had never been ousted after the first two matches in the World Cup and had advanced out of the group stage in every tournament since 1958.
That all changed Friday. With Costa Rica now emerging after an upset victory over Italy, the soccer world is on notice.
France 5, Switzerland 2
Are you not entertained?
During one of the most exciting World Cups thanks to an explosion of offense so far, France brought the big guns out yet again against Switzerland. The final of 5-2 was huge, but a three-goal showing in the first half set the tone for the French heading into the locker rooms.
It was just another match where Karim Benzema took over on the pitch, as Squawka Football notes:
Benzema now looks primed to be a contender for the Golden Boot in this year's tournament.
Following his two-goal performance against Honduras in the opener, the Real Madrid striker took over the second match with three more points. With yet another contest to go in the group stage, he has a chance to once again make his presence felt against Ecuador.
ESPN FC provides a look at every goal from the match:
Despite the fact that the Swiss were able to claw their way back with two goals in the second half, they were no match for the suddenly potent France squad.
After a terrible 2010 World Cup, the French look like a team that's here for the long run heading into the knockout stage. The five goals put up on Friday were huge even for a club like France, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:
While they might still be a little ways from contending for a finals appearance, there's no doubting that France might be one of the strongest offensive teams in the tournament.
Ecuador 2, Honduras 1
The final fixture of Day 9 didn't provide the same fireworks as France's offensive explosion, but it did give fans who prefer the drama of a close match something to cheer about. Ecuador was able to squeeze past Honduras to pick up a crucial three points by virtue of a 2-1 victory.
And they have Enner Valencia to thank for it.
The 25-year-old burgeoning star scored both goals for his squad. The eventual game winner coming at the 65-minute mark.
WhoScored.com noted that the two goals just continue an ongoing trend for Valencia:
Enner Valencia: Has now scored 11 goals in his last 9 appearances for club and country #ecu— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 20, 2014
Bleacher Report UK tweeted out a vine of the first goal as it demonstrated the star's ability to finish with limited space:
With the match evened up at one, ESPN FC tweeted out his beautiful header that put Ecuador up for good:
The victory now puts Ecuador in very good position in Group E. They trail only France and lead Switzerland in goal differential by two. With France establishing themselves as the side to beat in the group, Ecuador is in a great position to keep that No. 2 spot.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.