Mario Balotelli tweeted that he would welcome a peck on the cheek from Queen Elizabeth II as a reward if his Italy team kept alive England's chances to advance in the World Cup by downing Costa Rica.
Final score: Costa Rica 1, Italy 0. Does this mean the queen will respond on the royal family's Twitter account that she'd like to slap Balotelli's wrist?
Balotelli bore much of the blame in the listless Italians' setback, which placed the tournament long-shot Costa Ricans in the knockout bracket and transformed England's hopes of joining them from remote to nil.
Costa Rica appeared to get jobbed late in the first half when forward Joel Campbell was upended in the box by Giorgio Chiellini. Referee Enrique Osses issued no penalty.
Unfazed, Costa Rica got its goal a minute later on Junior Diaz's exquisite pass to Bryan Ruiz at the far post. Ruiz's header could not be procured by top-notch keeper Gianluigi Buffon, who bypassed Italy's open match with a sore ankle.
Balotelli frittered away an opportunity that he normally would finish blindfolded when his blooper over exposed keeper Keilor Navas went awry. Later, a forceful shot found the gut of Navas.
In the second half, Balotelli all but vanished, except when he yanked down a defender out of frustration and received a yellow card. He would receive no kiss afterward.
Italy, a four-time Cup champion with Uruguay left on its schedule, still can move on. Yet the headline from Group D involves Costa Rica, which had won only four Cup matches before Friday.
No surprise that its next game against England involves a 2-0 team. The shocker is, that side is little, overlooked Costa Rica.
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