Costa Rica bounced back from their 5-0 defeat to Brazil with a spirited and well deserved 3-0 win over ten-man Australia in Port Said. While reviving Tico hopes of a place in the last 16, the result all but dooms the Young Socceroos to an early exit after two successive Group E losses.
With both sides insisting pre-match that this was a must-win game, it was understandable that nerves and tension played their part in what was, in truth, a dull and uninspiring encounter. Costa Rica created the best of what few chances there were, with Diego Estrada twisting into a shooting position after 13 minutes only to lean back and blaze over.
Poor finishing had been the Central Americans' undoing against Brazil and there were indications that the same problem might cause their downfall for a second time when Estrada again wasted some fine approach play by tugging a left-foot shot wide.
Then, out of nothing, Costa Rica finally found the way to goal. And what a goal it was. Danger had appeared minimal when Diego Madrigal took in a short free-kick with his back to goal, but in one lithe movement, the Tico No11 spun his marker and unleashed an unstoppable right-foot shot that flew in off the inside of the post from 20 yards.
Australia could have no complaints, and they had Dean Bouzanis to thank for keeping the half-time score at 1-0 after the Liverpool keeper stuck out a foot to deny the speedy Josue Martinez. At the other end, the Young Socceroos were once again proving toothless in attack, and their cause wasn't helped when substitute Tahj Minniecon was sent off within five minutes of entering the fray following a petulant off-the-ball incident.
The situation called for that famous Aussie fighting spirit, but aside from a Mitch Nicholls' free-kick that flashed narrowly wide and a tame James Holland header, there were precious few nervy moments for Los Ticos as they held on comfortably against the ten men.
Sadly, it took an own goal to put the outcome beyond doubt with eight minutes remaining, when the unfortunate Luke Devere attempted to head the ball back Bouzanis and instead sent the ball looping into the unguarded net. And there was even time for salt to be added to Aussie wounds when David Guzman added a well-taken third in injury time, curling the ball beyond the helpless Bouzanis from just inside the box.