Giant killers ... Goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton (bottom) of Costa Rica celebrates with teammate Oscar Granados after defeating Italy 1-0.

Giant killers ... Goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton (bottom) of Costa Rica celebrates with teammate Oscar Granados after defeating Italy 1-0. Photo: Getty Images

Oh, how the mighty are falling. All hail their conquerors and those who, like Costa Rica, are sending shock waves through the very foundations of the global game.

Sport needs constant flux and change to remain interesting and relevant. Champions need to be tested hard, and often, to prove their worth and establish their credentials.

Pushed Netherlands to the edge ... Tim Cahill of Australia goes up for the ball with Ron Vlaar of the Netherlands.

Pushed Netherlands to the edge ... Tim Cahill of Australia goes up for the ball with Ron Vlaar of the Netherlands. Photo: Getty Images

The first of the giants to depart were Spain, the defending world champions, and no-one could argue that they had not earned their laurels. Vicente del Bosque's side had won two European titles and a World Cup in the last six years but their players had grown old, and perhaps comfortable, satiated by their success.

They were gone five days after they had kicked off, out in straight sets following two harrowing defeats in their first two World Cup matches, put to the sword by the rampant Dutch, then taken apart with surgical precision by the thrilling Chileans. No longer will opponents fear the Spanish Imposition.

Then England, the team the world simultaneously loves to hate but loves to play because of the fanaticism of their fans, the extraordinary publicity their media generates and the sheer footprint they have on the global game.

Another upset ... An Italy football fan watches his team lose against Costa Rica.

Another upset ... An Italy football fan watches his team lose against Costa Rica. Photo: AP

England's loss in its opening game to Italy was put down to a bit of ill fortune and seen as an honourable defeat and a learning curve for the youngsters Roy Hodgson had thrown in.

Yes, the feeling went, Uruguay would be tough opponents, but surely this team stacked with big-name Premier League players would be good enough to at the very least get a draw with the South Americans and see off Costa Rica.  

Assuming, of course, that Italy did what was expected and saw off the plucky Ticos, who had pulled off a huge upset themselves in their opening game by beating the Uruguayans. That, of course, turned out to be a massive assumption.

Double trouble ... Uruguay's forward Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring against England.

Double trouble ... Uruguay's forward Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring against England. Photo: AFP

It wasn't to be for England as Luis Suarez plunged the English nation into grief as they wondered why so many highly paid players, feted as superstars by the local media, could put in two such average performances.

Still, if there's one thing that the English media likes more than an England World Cup success it’s an England World Cup disaster, so there will be plenty to play out there over the next few days as the Three Lions prepare to take on the biggest surprise turns of the tournament so far, Costa Rica.

And, of course, it had to be Suarez. The Uruguayan had begun the last Premiership season under a long suspension for biting a Chelsea opponent, Branko Ivanovic, in a game during the previous season. He ended it as a fan favourite and Player of the Year as his goals almost fired Liverpool to a surprise league title. And now this.

That assumption that the Ticos win over Uruguay was a bit of a fluke was turned on its head when the Central Americans rolled Italy on Friday afternoon to blow the group wide open and cause another earthquake in the global game.

Brian Ruiz's goal was enough to give them a 1-0 win, and with that secure qualification for the second phase with six points from two games. They can probably afford to lose 2-0 to England in their final game and still have a good chance of going through as group winners. Nothing can now save England, who have joined Spain and Australia on the early plane home.

The Italy v Uruguay clash now looms as a mouth-watering meeting. It is a knockout game, with the winner progressing along with Costa Rica, the losers going home.

How on earth is all this happening? The Ticos trampling over the big names in their group, Australia running Chile and The Netherlands so close, unconsidered Algeria almost upsetting strongly fancied Belgium?

Well, the simple answer is that the gaps are closing in the world game and the standard is rising in the developing football world.

More money is being spent on coaching and talent identification, while the best handful of players from these smaller nations are often good enough to land contracts in major leagues with big clubs.

That has myriad effects. They become heroes and inspirational figures for the kids at home while developing greater professionalism and a ''winning mentality'' which they can bring to and influence their colleagues on the national team. 

And in some cases the effects of migration and former colonialism have unforseen consequences.

Several of the African teams contain players who were born in France to migrant parents who, perhaps borderline choices for Les Bleus, opt instead to play for the country of their antecedents.  

It has, in the past, been a similar story for Germany, where a handful of talented players born there decided to play for Turkey, their parent's country, rather than the land of their birth. It was certainly something the Republic of Ireland got on to in the 1990s, fielding numerous English-born players with Irish backgrounds as they made the quarter final in 1990 and the second round in 1994.

It's part of the global mix up that makes this the world's game - and keeps it so fascinating. Even if Spain, England, and perhaps Italy might disagree right now.

Now all it's going to take is for Portugal to get beaten by the USA for the misrule to continue. Imagine Cristiano Ronaldo's face if that happens ...