Bryan Ruiz (#10) walks down the tunnel after Costa Rica's historic FIFA World Cup win over Italy and Costa Rica at Arena Pernambuco on June 20, 2014, in Recife, Brazil. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
RECIFE, Brazil – Costa Rica won two straight World Cup games for the first time on Friday, when a first-half goal by Bryan Ruiz lifted the Ticos to a 1-0 triumph over Italy.
The PSV Eindhoven star’s effort, combined with the solid – if not spectacular – performance of the Costa Rican defense, doomed the Azzurri to its first-ever loss against a CONCACAF side in finals play.
As a result, the current Central American champion clinched a place in the knockout stages for the first time since Italia ’90.
An emotional Ruiz – the team captain – was ecstatic for Costa Rica’s progression and his role in making it happen.
“It is an unexplainable feeling,” said Ruíz. "We suffered a lot. In all these years, I had not been able to be in a World Cup and now I am in history for scoring the goal.”
The former Alajuelense standout also credited self-belief for the team’s accomplishment.
“I think that we dreamed about this and we had faith that we could do it,” declared Ruiz. "Many people did not have faith in us.”
The 28-year-old’s tally came just before halftime, when he headed a Junior Diaz left-sided cross off the underside of Gianluigi Buffon’s crossbar and just over the goal line, before it re-entered the field. Ruiz, however, had no doubt that he had actually scored.
“I knew that it had gone in when I headed it,” he commented. “I saw it go in, but you never know and for that reason we have the [goal-line] technology.”
Costa Rica will look to finish the group stage with a perfect record when it faces England on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte.