World Cup roundup: ECU-HON, SUI-FRA, ITA-CRC (June 20)
Group E: Ecuador 2, Honduras 1
CURITIBA, Brazil — Ecuador forward Enner Valencia scored twice in a 2-1 comeback victory over Honduras that kept his team in contention at the World Cup.
Ecuador moved into second spot in Group E with a game remaining against group-leading France, which has tallied eight goals and conceded two in a pair of dominating wins.
Honduras took the lead in the 31st minute with its first World Cup goal in 32 years when Carlo Costly latched onto a long ball following a misjudgment from Ecuador defender Jorge Guagua. The goal ended a 511-minute drought that stretched back to the 1982 World Cup.
Valencia equalized three minutes later, tapping in with his left foot from close range after Brayan Beckeles had failed to clear a cross from the right.
The second half was far less frenzied than the opening 45 minutes and Valencia's winner came in the 65th minute when he out-jumped the Honduras defense to head home a left-sided free kick from Walter Ayovi.
"A very contested match, it was very complicated to deal with the nerves because of everything in play," Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez said.
Valencia's goals, which take his tournament tally to three, made up for a glaring miss earlier in the match that would have given Ecuador an early lead. He blasted over the Honduras bar when through on goal.
Honduras, which has never won a World Cup match, isn't completely out of contention despite two losses but faces an uphill battle ahead of its last group game against Switzerland, which lost 5-2 to France earlier Friday.
"We still have that possibility, though it is remote and we will fight for it," Suarez said.
Group E: France 5, Switzerland 2
SALVADOR, Brazil — France is striking at the World Cup again, this time in a way the fans back home will approve of.
Four years ago to the day, France's players shamed the nation by going on strike at the last World Cup. Today, the team put on a striking attacking display, blowing Switzerland away with a 5-2 win to take total control of Group E and put themselves in position to avoid a showdown with Lionel Messi's Argentina in the next round.
"We were all magnificent tonight," said goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, one of only four holdovers from the shambles of France's last World Cup. "We can't let ourselves get flooded by emotion and must stay calm. But we're going to savor this."
Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud and winger Mathieu Valbuena all scored one goal and created another to underline both the newfound team spirit in this team and the lethal versatility in attack.
"When you score five goals, it's ecstasy," Valbuena said.
How different things look from 2010.
Group D: Costa Rica 1, Italy 0
RECIFE, Brazil — Had Costa Rica been a less resilient team, it might still be stewing over referee Enrique Osses' refusal to award a penalty when explosive striker Joel Campbell was taken down in the area.
Instead, the Ticos mounted another of their numerous raids on Italy's defense, scoring a minute later when Bryan Ruiz headed home Junior Diaz's long, curling cross from the left wing.
Playing confidently and attacking relentlessly, Costa Rica seized control of Group D and clinched a place in the knockout round of the World Cup with a 1-0 victory over four-time champion Italy.
"The first objective we have already achieved, and now let's see," Ruiz said of the Costa Rica's assured place in the Round of 16. "Of course, we want to go forward, as far as possible."
The triumph might have been more lopsided if not for Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who made several diving saves.
Entering the tournament as the second-place team in CONCACAF qualifying, behind the United States, the Costa Ricans were apparently the weakest team in a group featuring former World Cup champions Italy, Uruguay and England.
Not anymore. They've reached the second round for the first time since 1990 and can top the group with a draw or better against England, which was knocked out of contention because of the result.
"Today is a very special moment for us," Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. "We knew that today we could make history for Costa Rica and we've been able to do so."
The gravity of the victory for the small Central American nation was evident in the way several players reacted to the final whistle by collapsing to the turf the way tennis players often do after winning Grand Slam titles.
"Maybe we hadn't realized how important this victory was after the match, but now we do," Ruiz said. "Thank you to the fans who have supported us all along, and those who haven't supported us maybe believe in us right now."