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September 23, 2017

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Football: Costa Rica stun Italy to send England packing

RECIFE, Brazil - Costa Rica upset Italy 1-0 on Friday to seal England's exit from the World Cup and reach the second round of the tournament for the first time since 1990.

Fulham striker Bryan Ruiz scored the Group D game's decisive goal as Costa Rica clinched a famous win which left Italy's World Cup hopes finely balanced.

England, who suffered their second defeat of the tournament with a 2-1 defeat against Uruguay on Thursday, needed Italy to beat the Costa Ricans to retain faint hopes of qualification.

But a lacklustre Azzurri struggled to impose themselves in the afternoon heat of Recife's Pernambuco Arena. Costa Rica followed up their 3-1 win over Uruguay with a deserved three points.

Ruiz rose to head a cross from Junior Diaz in off the crossbar. The goal came just moments after Costa Rica had been denied a clear penalty by referee Enrique Osses when Joel Campbell was bundled over by Giorgio Chiellini.

Costa Rica's victory means they need only draw against England in their final first round match next Tuesday to top the group.

Italy face a nervous final match against Uruguay. A draw will be enough for the Italians but a Uruguay win would see them knocked out.

England's exit is their earliest since 1958. However the English Football Association swiftly backed under-fire coach Roy Hodgson on Friday, saying he would remain in the job until 2016.

"We are supportive of Roy Hodgson and would like him to stay as manager," FA chairman Greg Dyke said in comments reported by British media.

"We do not see any value in changing. We think Roy has done a good job and it is an approach over four years and we hope to do better in the European Championships."

While England licked their wounds, France and Switzerland headed into a pivotal battle in Group E.

Friday's match falls on the fourth anniversary of the French squad's infamous strike at the South Africa World Cup in support of Nicolas Anelka. The moody striker was sent home early for a tirade at coach Raymond Domenech.

France captain Hugo Lloris says the anniversary will not be a factor as they chase the win which would leave them on the verge of the knock-out phase.

"We don't have what happened in 2010 in mind, we're really focused on this tournament. What happened in 2010 belongs in the past," said Lloris, one of the few players still in the squad from the South Africa campiagn.

"We're here to live an adventure for as long as possible with the best results possible."

A win for France or Switzerland would put them firmly on course to win Group E, averting the possibility of a last 16 meeting with Argentina, the expected winners of Group F.

If France or Switzerland win today they could qualify for the second round, if Honduras and Ecuador, who meet in the day's other game, draw.

Elsewhere, controversy mounted over FIFA rules regarding players who suffer head injuries following an incident involving Uruguay's Alvaro Pereira in the England match.

Pereira collapsed to the ground and lay motionless after appearing to be knocked out after Raheem Sterling's knee accidentally knocked his head in the 61st minute of the match.

Even though Pereira insisted on staying on, FIFPro said players needed to be prevented from endangering themselves.

"(A player) must be subjected to further evaluation and follow-up procedures that help determine if and when he can return to training," the body said in a statement.

FIFA meanwhile withdrew Colombian linesman Humberto Clavijo from World Cup duties after he flagged two offsides in error during Mexico's 1-0 victory over Cameroon.

Two goals by Mexico's Giovani Dos Santos were ruled offside in Friday's Group A game.

Clavijo has been take off the list for Sunday's Group H match between South Korea and Algeria because of the mistakes, said FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer.

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