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Brazil vs Costa Rica
FIFA World Cup, Group E, Match 25
Brazil have left it very late to pinch a 2-0 win over a determined Costa Rica.
After 90 minutes of deep and dogged defending by the Central Americans, their goal was only breached in injury time as Firminho and Gabriel Jesus combined to set up Coutinho, who scored his second from the tournament, this time from close range.
With Los Ticos flattened and exhausted, the Brazilians ran in another one through Neymar just before the final whistle.
But the apparently comfortable scoreline belied the frustrating nature of the game for the Selecao.
All through the match they dominated possession and territory, as you would expect. In the first half, they struggled to get through the Costa Rican defence in any way, reduced on multiple occasions to speculative shots from long range.
For their part Costa Rica tried to counterattack when given the opportunity, but apart from an early chance to Borges didn’t appear likely to break through either.
At half time, there was just one shot on target between the two sides – a long and unthreatening effort by Marcelo.
At the start of the second half the Brazilians began to show a bit more patience in attack, looking to get the ball further into the six yard box and put Navas’ goal under real pressure; but the Real Madrid stopper was up to the task with several crucial interventions after being largely unchallenged in the first half.
As the game dragged on signs of desperation began to appear for the Brazilians, and it appeared as though their chance might have come and gone after a penalty was awarded for a foul on Neymar in the 77th minute, only for it to be overturned on Video Review.
It was a confusing moment, as the vision clearly showed Neymar obstructed by an outstretched arm from Gonzalez, the Costa Rican defender trying to keep the PSG striker from getting around him.
But the referee curiously reversed his own decision after seeing the vision. Possibly it was a response to Neymar’s elaborate gesture, throwing himself back to draw attention to the foul.
In this blogger’s opinion it was a misuse of the VAR system. There’s a fine line on a clear and obvious error but that was certainly not one. I can only think that the referee was irked on seeing Neymar’s theatrics and refused the penalty out of pique.
That seemed to temporarily deflate the Brazilians. But they continued to press into dangerous areas and eventually a smart bit of work by Firminho after a hopeful long ball set up the breakthrough goal.
Costa Rica 0
Match 25 at the FIFA World Cup features pre-tournament fancy Brazil up against 2014 surprise packet Costa Rica in Saint Petersburg. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from 10pm (AEST).
Brazil came into this tournament with a stellar squad and a monumental legacy, but after a promising start against Switzerland their opening game ended in a frustrating draw.
Following that game there have been reports that their star player, Neymar, is under an injury cloud.
This match against the humble Costa Rica then might represent an opportunity to regain some confidence, and get the team playing with that well known Samba flair.
But the Central Americans have proven in the past that they can be a tough proposition for those that take them too lightly.
They go into this game knowing that a loss will certainly end their chances of progressing from the group.
They were a little underwhelming in their opening game – a 1-0 loss to Croatia – where they relied heavily on Navas in goal and generally looked pretty toothless up front.
You can expect that they’ll defend grimly up until the point they fall behind, and hope to pinch a draw to give themselves a chance with a win over Switzerland in their final game.
Although the Brazilian camp have played down the story of an injury to Neymar, it’s not certain whether he’ll appear in this game.
But honestly that shouldn’t matter too much. With Firminho and Gabriel Jesus available up front, and Coutinho and Willian on the wings – and that’s just for starters – there’s more than enough attacking power for any team.
The Selecao may still have some cobwebs to clear out but even if Navas plays the game of his life it’s hard to see Los Ticos holding them out for 90 minutes.
The Brazilians may face a fight, but they’ll break through at some point and probably get an extra as Costa Rica chase the game.
Brazil 2, Costa Rica 0