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Costa Rica defy doubters, win Group D

By Frank Griffiths

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- Defying all the doubters, Costa Rica came through perhaps the toughest group of the World Cup unbeaten and on top.

Costa Rica followed up its wins over Uruguay and Italy by holding England to a dour 0-0 draw on Tuesday, enough to finish first in Group D. Quite an achievement for a team that was seen as the rank outsider in the first ever World Cup group that contained three former champions.

“It wasn't the death group after all — at least not for us,” Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. He dedicated the qualification to “those who believed in us and those who didn't.”

“People started believing after the game against Italy,” he added.

Uruguay also advanced from the group after beating Italy 1-0.

Costa Rica only needed a draw to top Group D and played that way, setting up in a defensive 5-3-2 formation against England.

The result gives Costa Rica its best World Cup performance. While Los Ticos reached the knockout stages in 1990, they finished second in a weaker group. Costa Rica will now play the runner-up in Group C in the second round.

“We will have to keep fighting,” Pinto said. “Whatever happens we are willing to fight.”

England lost its first two matches to Italy and Uruguay and was already eliminated. England goes home from Brazil without a win after striker Daniel Sturridge missed a number of chances Tuesday.

But coach Roy Hodgson thought his team showed spirit against the Costa Ricans, trying to break down a stubborn defense.

“We showed today what a good team we can be,” England coach Roy Hodgson said. “Apart from the first 10 minutes, I thought we dominated.”

One of Sturridge's best opportunities came in the 65th after a nice one-two with midfielder Jack Wilshere. But the forward's curling shot from the right just missed squeezing inside the far post.

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 Japan sent packing by reinvigorated Colombia at Arena Pantanal 
Costa Rica supporters show off a sign after the Group D soccer match between Costa Rica and England at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, June 24, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (AFP)

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