Roy Hodgson made nine changes to his starting line-up from the defeat against Uruguay, with the new-look side showing promise but suffering from many of the same failings which proved so costly in the 2-1 defeats by Italy and Uruguay.
Daniel Sturridge, who had a strong first-half appeal for a penalty waved away, missed an excellent second-half chance to break the deadlock and there were several other promising opportunities which England could not take advantage of, while the defence looked occasionally shaky, with Chris Smalling particularly nervous.
Ben Foster did well as Joe Hart’s replacement, tipping one first-half free-kick from Celso Borges onto the top of the crossbar, but he was less employed than opposite number Keylor Navas in Belo Horizonte, the scene of England’s infamous 1950 defeat to the USA.
England’s fans started off by cheering their team loudly, and the likes of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and the impressive Jack Wilshere responded with good performances.
But by the end there was a flat feeling among the few thousand who had come to Estadio Mineirao and England head home having amassed just one point from their three matches – their worst points total in World Cup history.
For the first minute and a half, Costa Rica’s noisy fans shouted “Ole” as England chased shadows in the lunchtime heat.
Within four minutes England were nearly behind. Randall Brenes found Joel Campbell on the edge of the box and his deflected looped up off Gary Cahill past Foster’s goal.
A few groans were heard as Smalling sliced a simple pass out of play. Cahill needlessly punted the ball out moments later.
Finally, England came into the game courtesy of Wilshere, who beat two players and found Sturridge, but he dragged his shot just wide.
Shaw, the youngest England player to start a World Cup game since Michael Owen, showed no sign of nerves going forward, but he gave away a free-kick in a dangerous position.
Borges stepped up and bent a dipping shot over the wall and onto the bar via the fingertips of the athletic Foster.
The only other point of note in the dull first period came just before the half hour when a Ross Barkley touched James Milner’s cross into the path of Sturridge. The Liverpool striker shaped to shoot, but Duarte brought him down with an out-stretched leg.
Referee Djamel Haimoudi waved play on, much to Sturridge’s dismay.
Fortune favoured England in a move straight after the break. Shaw’s shot looped straight into the path of Sturridge in the box, but the striker mis-controlled, allowing Costa Rica goalkeeper Navas to smother the ball.
Giancarlo Gonzalez dumped Barkley on the turf with a wrestling move, but Frank Lampard, appearing possibly for the last time in an England shirt, wasted the free-kick, driving straight into the wall.
Phil Jones, a few minutes after failing to control a simple pass, then gave possession away inside his own half, but luckily for England Christian Bolanos shot straight at Foster.
Wishere played a lovely one-two with Sturridge to set the striker free inside the box, but he curled an inch wide.
Hodgson tried to inject some life into his team by introducing Raheem Sterling.
The England support then demanded Wayne Rooney enter the pitch. Instead they got Steven Gerrard, who was cheered by the fans, who suspected this might be the captain’s final England appearance. Rooney finally came on with 15 minutes left.
The Manchester United striker attempted an audacious chip over Navas within minutes of his introduction. He also came within inches of turning home Lampard’s cross in the dying minutes.
England kept on trying, but they could not beat Costa Rica – a team ranked below Scotland by FIFA.