Oh, the cruel irony. England, the country that, more than any other, has called for the introduction of goal-line technology, go out of the World Cup after said introduced technology correctly does its job.
For the second time in the competition, goal-line technology was employed to decide a shot that was too close to call, as Bryan Ruiz's header rebounded down off the crossbar and across Gianluigi Buffon's goalmouth as Costa Rica faced Italy on Friday.
The verdict was swift and correct: Ruiz's header had indeed crossed the line. Costa Rica would win the game as a result—in the process confirming England's early exit from the competition.
Four years ago England's slim hopes had been removed by the lack of goal-line technology, as Frank Lampard's shot against Germany famously crossed the line but was not awarded. But now, as then, the Three Lions cannot blame their fate on technology—they deserved to go home after the poor performance on Thursday night against Uruguay.
Instead, it is Costa Rica who are already through to the knockout stages from Group D, after two victories in as many games. Against Italy they did everything that England could not—pressing their opponents high up the pitch, squeezing Andrea Pirlo out of the match and showing the Azzurri up with their work rate and fitness.
In the end, technology just ensured they got the result they deserved.
Later on Friday came the most emphatic performance of the day, as France scored five goals past Switzerland—taking their tally to 20 in their last four official fixtures (12 in two friendlies).
Karim Benzema was once again on great form, despite missing a penalty, as Les Bleus' drive in midfield and resilience at the back (at least, until they lost some of their concentration later on) identified them as a genuine threat in this competition.
"There is an enormous satisfaction with the result," coach Didier Deschamps said, per Reuters (via Eurosport). "We are competitive, we were able to show this today, it was a good test.
"My impression now is very positive. In five days time we have a new battle."
With Costa Rica, Uruguay and Chile winning against European opponents in recent times, it had seemed the tide had begun turning in favour of the South and Central American countries. France, however, showed they still have a lot to offer this competition—with Germany in action on Saturday.
Argentina are also in action, as they face Iran. They will do well to put on as impressive an attacking display as France did, however.
Results in brief—Day 9
Italy 0-1 Costa Rica
Switzerland 2-5 France
(Dzemaili, Xhaka; Giroud, Matuidi, Valbuena, Benzema, Sissoko)
Honduras 1-2 Ecuador
(Costly; E. Valencia—2)
1. Notes from Day 9
Showing their hand too soon?... Italy can still progress to the knockout stages with a positive result against Uruguay on Tuesday, but one wonders if their race will be run sooner rather than later.
Costa Rica showed every other side (well, except England) how to counter Italy's threats—press them up the pitch, squeeze Andrea Pirlo and play a high defensive line and offside trap. Uruguay will surely have taken note.
But, perhaps, have Costa Rica also tipped their hand? They are through to the last 16, but their opponent, whoever that may be, will doubtless watch this game and figure out how to counter that all-action approach. They will need to show further tactical flexibility if they are going to go even further in this competition.
From hero to villain... Valon Behrami was perhaps Switzerland's primary hero during the opening victory over Ecuador, critical as he was to the last-minute winner. Behrami made a lunging last-ditch challenge to prevent Michael Arroyo getting off a potentially match-winning shot—before immediately starting off the sweeping counter-attacking move that would bring the Swiss a scarcely believable late winner.
Yet, on Friday, Behrami was the villain—giving the ball away from the restart after France's first goal, a careless mistake that ended up with Blaise Matuidi sticking a second goal in the net mere seconds later.
There were many more goals to come, but that moment effectively killed the match as a contest, and Switzerland now need to get something from their final game against Honduras if they are to escape the group.
All eyes on Valencia... Enner Valencia scored his second and third goals of this World Cup, drawing him level (for now at least) at the top of the Golden Boot charts. Currently playing his trade at Pachuca in Mexico, the lithe forward's eye for goal will surely have alerted a couple of European clubs to his talents.
Over and above its significance to his country, next week's game against France could be the biggest of the 25-year-old's career.
2. Quote of the Day
We knew that we could make history for Costa Rica and today we have done that. That's what I told my players today - let's change history.
It was a beautiful match and the people of Costa Rica deserve this day. They have supported the team and me and this was for them.
- Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto (via the BBC)
3. Tweet of the Day
Group of Death. pic.twitter.com/evZW9XRTHW— Football Funnys (@FootballFunnys) June 20, 2014
Whaaaat is this?! Okay Italy, I'm up! Ima need y'all to wake up!— Rihanna (@rihanna) June 20, 2014
Mario Balotelli realised Kate Middleton isn't actually the queen!— The SPORT Bible (@TSBible) June 20, 2014
4. Goal of the Day
How about the not-quite goal of the day? Karim Benzema thought he had his second goal against Switzerland, but the referee had inexplicably blown the final whistle moments before the ball arrived at his feet. Still, it was not a bad finish.
5. A good day for...
Didier Deschamps. Oh what fun it must be to be the coach of an international side producing the most convincing attacking play of the tournament.
While contemporaries such as Roy Hodgson are facing painful questions about their future, Deschamps is being lauded by all as something approaching a genius, as France cruise toward the knockout stages. Deschamps had not previously been known as a progressive or attacking coach—for now at least, he is very much in fashion.
6. A bad day for...
Mario Balotelli. No kiss from the Queen and barely even a sniff at goal all day. Against a defence that few expected to cause him major problems, Balotelli was a frustrated and ineffective spectator for much of the match.
The AC Milan striker might well keep his place for the group decider against Uruguay, but Cesare Prandelli must be wondering if Ciro Immobile deserves his chance if Super Mario has another poor game, even so soon after making the decisive impact against England.
7. Tomorrow's schedule
Argentina vs. Iran (Group F: 5 p.m. BST/Noon EDT)
It's a second chance to impress for Lionel Messi and Co., after stumbling over their lines slightly in the opening win over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Iran showed great defensive organisation against Nigeria, but will that even be enough for them to pick up another point in this one?
Germany vs. Ghana (Group G: 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. EDT)
Did we really learn anything about Germany from their opening win over Portugal, or were they just gifted the win by Pepe's spectacular stupidity? This game could be more of test of their credentials, however, with Ghana showing their attacking edge, even as they fell in a painful defeat to the United States.
Nigeria vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina (Group F: 11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. EDT)
It's a must-win game for both sides, considering their opening struggles. Nigeria were a huge disappointment against Iran, with their draw leaving them really needing to win this game if they realistically want to reach the knockout stages. Bosnia-Herzegovina will be determined not to let that happen, though, after showing in their opener that they can compete at this level.