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This game will be remembered as the day Brazil escaped a place alongside Argentina in the danger zone with two stoppage-time goals - and as a victory for VAR, after a penalty awarded to Neymar for an innocuous hand-touch by a Costa Rica defender was overturned by Bjorn Kuipers, the referee, who acknowledged his own mistake on review.
The tournament is breathing easier after the favourites, who who were mostly unconvincing - scored in stoppage time through Philippe Coutinho, their outstanding player, and Neymar, moments before the whistle. Brazil were sucked into Neymar’s private dramas throughout their second Group E fixture but the world’s most expensive footballer at least made his mark with a tap-in that sends Tite’s side into the Serbia game with a clear victory in Saint Petersburg.
Neymar complained constantly to the referee about Costa Rican tackling and was in poor touch for most of the game. At the end he sat on the turf while team-mates hugged him.
This Neymar fixation is not going to go away. But at least Kuipers struck a victory for justice by seeing, on his review screen, that Neymar had collapsed much too easily after Giancarlo Gonzalez merely touched him on the chest.
From there, Brazil chased the win with renewed intensity. A grip around this World Cup has been that no outstanding team has yet emerged. Brazil still fall short of that description, but have plenty of scope for improvement now that a late brace of goals have soothed their nerves. They cannot, however, keep indulging Neymar. Tite, the Brazil coach, showed his ruthless side by replacing Willian with Roberto Firmino at half-time. He might need to call on it again if Neymar continues to make his right not to be tackled at the centre of all Brazil’s concerns.
He should have been booked too for falling backwards after being lightly dabbed by Gonzalez. Neymar will claim the headlines again, but Coutinho was the true spirit of Brazilian football. The other major powers here in Russia will fear this was Brazil’s moment of take-off.
The official man of the match
Opta's statistical pointers
- This was Brazil’s first World Cup victory thanks to a goal scored in the 90th minute.
- Costa Rica are winless in their last five World Cup matches (D3 L2).
- Costa Rica had just three shots in this match, with all of those coming in the opening 15 minutes.
- Brazil’s second goal was timed at 96:49 – the latest recorded 90th minute goal in a World Cup match since 1966.
- Brazil’s Neymar has been fouled 14 times so far in the 2018 World Cup, more than any other player.
- Neymar has scored 56 goals in 87 matches for Brazil – only Pele (77) and Ronaldo (62) have scored more.
- Philippe Coutinho has been directly involved in four goals in his last four games for Brazil (3 goals, 1 assist), as many as in his previous 14 combined for the national side.
- Gabriel Jesus has been directly involved in 15 goals in 18 starts for Brazil (10 goals, 5 assists).
And the VAR 'penalty'
Here's Neymar's late, late second
And Coutinho's goal
Here's the group table
The referee used VAR to overturn a penalty decision
How would you have seen it?
Brazil leave it very late but class wins out at the end after they were frustrated for 90 minutes and their anger was in danger of distracting them.
90+7 min Brazil 2-0 Costa Rica
Turning in Douglas Costa's square pass on the halfvolley with his left after terrific set-up play from Coutinho.
GOAL!! Brazil 2-0 Costa Rica
Neymar is off the mark at the death.
90+6 min Brazil 1-0 Costa Rica
Neymar plays keepie-uppie out by the corner flag and knocks it up with a flick, a kangaroo leap with the ball clamped between his ankles a la Hunt and Carr for Coventry.
90+4 min Brazil 1-0 Costa Rica
The goal has made the ball round again for Brazil and they begin to chassé their way through the box with subtle touches and deft passes. Neymar links up with Firmino who blasts his shot wide. Fernandino comes on for Gabriel Jesus
90+3 min Brazil 1-0 Costa Rica
We begin the first of six minutes of added time. Firmino heads Marcelo's deep left-wing cross back across goal to Jesus who takes a touch, by no means a good one, and he turns to try and reach it and shoot. Coutinho, though, in like a train is better-placed, screams at him to leave it and fires his shot from about 8m through Navas's legs.
GOAL! Brazil 1-0 Costa Rica
90 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
The cross is sent into the box and Navas is fouled by Firmino as they go up for it.
88 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Neymar, fouled again, has great gaping holes in his socks to show where he's been hacked at. Marcelo, coming in to get the ball to take the free-kick quickly, hands off a Costa Rica player who throws himself to the grass and flip-flops like a landed gurnard.
87 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Casemiro shoots from 20m and spoons a daisycutter straight down Navas's throat.
86 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Gabriel Jesus, waiting for the ball to drop in the box and get a shot away, is tackled by Neymar who has been infected by messiah syndrome and believes only he can deliver.
84 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Coutinho has also been booked for dissent. Brazil are lined up in a 2-4-4 and giving it the kitchen sink but Costa Rica are restricting them by cutting off space in the box.
82 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Douglas Costa is chopped down on the right but the referee plays the advantage as Brazil pour into the box but they're crowded out and Navas fields Duarte's sliced clearance. Tejeda replaces Guzman.
80 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Marcelo's cross hits Acosta in the stomach and winds him. Neymar goes spare that Acosta won't get up so he punches the ball into the turf and is given a deserved yellow card.
Penalty overtured by the referee
He went over to have a look at it and decided the contact wasn't firm enough to knock Neymar over. Neymar looks utterly bemused. He was patted in the stomach and then did the dying swan.
Penalty to Brazil
Gonzalez hold Neymar mid-dribble in the box. VAR will have a look but he was fouled even though he dived as well.
76 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Neymar tries to nutmeg Duarte with a sharply-taken shot but it hits the ankle of the defender and goes out for a corner that Neymar takes. Easily defended and in the breakdown, as Costa Rica usher it clear, Neymar again goes sprawling under Duarte's challenge but the referee deems it fair, much to Neymar's ire.
74 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Neymar trips Venegas by the touchline and the break for the free-kick allows Costa Rica to send in Calvo for Celtic's Gamboa.
72 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
A miss from Neymar. Duarte fires his clearance straight at him 30m out and he accelerates from first to sixth gear in one shimmy and burst. As he approaches the box he decides to go early and bends a right-foot thunderbolt about 50cm wide and the same distance over.
70 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
A pair of Brazil corners, so much wrestling at the first but the referee doesn't intervene. Casemiro meets the second one with a half-powered glancing header that trickles through to Navas. A striker on his toes should have nipped in there to divert it past the keeper.
68 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Firmino replaces Paulinho. Looks like Argentina disease - too many cooks here and too few midfielders. Ruiz stands up a cross, Venegas heads back across goal and Miranda saves the day by beating Bolanos.
66 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Roberto Firmino strips off his tracksuit and prepares to come on.
64 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Neymar spins a right-foot cross from the left, arcing towards the six-yard box. Paulinho leaps to try to flick it in with his right-foot and catches Duarte in the face. Free-kick to Costa Rica.
62 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Neymar drives a low left foot shot from the left angle of the box at Navas. A routine save, unlike ...
60 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Bolanos, who led a break and then misplaced a pass, takes the resulting corner. Neymar is given a final warning for yapping just before it's taken and the referee even makes a mouth puppet of his hand to make the point. The corner is headed up vertically by a Brazil defender and Ruiz attempts a flying scissor kick volley 90 degrees from the Earth, but he can't connect properly and Brazil bundle it away.
58 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Now Paulinho sets up Coutinho to shoot from the edge of the box but it skips off the turf just as he was about to hit it which made it difficult to control. He prods the bobbling ball more than genuinely striking it and toe-pokes it low and down the keeper's throat as he dived forward to gather.
55 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
What a save by Navas. Neymar, slipping behind Acosta on the right, takes Paulinho's cute pass and flays a shot towards goal, and the Real Madrid keeper soars to his left to claw it behind.
52 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Bolanos replaces Urena for Costa Rica who spent 20 seconds in Brazil's half for relief before Brazil ran them down and set forth on another attack. They have been demonstrably fired up at half-time.
49 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Much better from Brazil - Gabriel Jesus rattles the crossbar with a header from Douglas Costa's shot and Paulinho has to wait fore it to drop, allowing Gonzalez to steal some of his room. Eventually he sends it back away from goal and Coutinho threads a shot through a forest of legs and Navas scrambles the ball behind for a corner.
48 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
A chaotic penalty box interlude. Paulinho chases down Oviedo's weak back pass to Navas and the keeper has to stand up to the pressure and belt it clear. He mishits it out to the left and Gabriel Jesus crosses it to the back post where Neymar goes up with the keeper and jumps into him. Free-kick.
47 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Douglas Costa is standing on the whitewash on the right and Neymar hugs it on the left, trying to open up the field.
46 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Douglas Costa has replaced Willian on the right of Brazil's attack. Makes sense. Willian's touch and timing had been horrendous.
Paul Hayward's take
The half-time shots tally
Half-time Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Guzman takes the free-kick, putting far too much on his cross and wahcking it over the box. The referee blows for time and Macelo gives him a piece of his mind. Thiago Silva intervenes to lead Marcelo away. Brazil improved but they need to accentuate the pass and geometry in the second-half and ramp down on the solo dribbling.
45 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Gamboa employs the universal mime language for 'dive' when Neymar sprawls headlong after a well-time sliding tackle. The referee tells Neymar to get up and Costa Rica break rapidly up the right where Borges is fouled.
44 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Paulinho in miles of space down the right, fires in an early cross that Neymar, not anticipating it coming so soon, just couldn't reach. Brazil recycle on the left and Guzman saves the day with a vital tackle on Willian. They try a different tack, going over the top with a right-to-left diagonal but Neymar goes too soon and is flagged offside.
42 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Marcelo, who should have been booked for a cynical shirt pull to stop a counter a minute ago, cuts in off the left and shoots with his swinger, sending a Barnes-Wallis of a pogoing shot safely into the arms of his Real Madrid chum Navas.
39 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Brazil corner on the right, won by Gamboa's interception. Paulinho goes down in the box when the cross comes in but his penalty appeals are ignored even though he was manhandled across the throat by Duarte. Costa Rica break quickly up the right and outnumber Brazil ... until Urena fails to read the pass, goes early and is caught offside.
37 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Costa Rica are showing no vissble strain from the recent siege of the their goal but they are betraying the pressure they're under with a series of fouls. They almost break up the right with Borges and Venegas but the latter overhits his release pass for Urena and Alisson sweeps up.
35 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Willian failed to stun a heavy pass, fumbling it into touch, provoking a wince from every Brazilian present and an orgy of praise from Clive Tyldesley to Glenn Hoddle - 'You would have won 100 caps if you'd been Brazilian'. Messrs Junior, Falcao, Zico and Socrates beg to differ.
32 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Great defending from Oviedo and Acosta when Neymar raced up the byline and stood up a cross into the six-yard box. They refused to yield an inch to Willian and Gabriel Jesus and squeezed them out of space.
29 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
A pair of shots from outside the box, left of centre. The first from Marcelo is thrashed across goal and wide of the far post. Half a minute later Coutinho cuts back on to his right as he speeds towards the area and goes for the right-foot curler that sneaks in at the far post, a goal he has scored a dozen times. But though he sends it out wide of the post, this time it doesn't veer in or dip in time.
27 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Terrific pass from Coutinho from the centre over Duarte on the right of he Costa Rica defence. Neymar gives chase and gets there a fraction of a second before Navas but can only stab his shot at the goalkeeper as he tried to go over him. Navas's speed off his line and bravery saved his side there.
25 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Coutinho is caught by Borges but unseen by the referee. Brazil break from midfield, Neymar flying up the right and cuts it back to Marcelo who shoots, hits Gabriel Jesus in a position in which he's 2m offside. The striker traps it and buries a shot past Navas but up goes the flag. Offside.
23 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Neymar shoos everyone away and takes the free-kick himself, driving it low and flat diagonally from the right aimed for Thiago Silva peeling off round the back. He does connect with the header but bludgeons it wide.
21 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Hardly seen anything of Gabriel Jesus and Paulinho. And Costa Rica look electric down the right. Here's Jesus now going up against Duarte 30m from goal and Duarte catches his knee.
19 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Neymar scoops the ball over his head by the touchline and turns Venegas, sprints on and goes down when Venegas shoves him over to thwart further progress. Neymar takes the free-kick, like he did a minute ago, and Costa Rica defend the cross into the box very comfortably. A combination of good positioning, strength and poor delivery. Coutinho covers his mouth to complain to the referee - presumably that Venegas wasn't booked for his persistent fouling.
16 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Neymar looks very rusty and trots from side to side, looking for a suitable berth from which he can influence the play. He is fouled on the left - doesn't look much but the cumulative effect of Switzerland's treatment and the couple of niggly ones here will effect him as he toils for match fitness after recovering from that broken foot.
14 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Chance for Costa Rica! And a golden one too from the free-kick on halfway. Venegas slides a pass down the right for Gamboa, who won the free-kick from Neymar who fouled him after giving the ball away. Gamboa gambols into the space habitually vacated by Marcelo and pulls back a cross from the byline to the penalty spot to meet Borges' run perfectly but the midfielder screws his shot a metre wide of the left post.
12 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Casemiro briefly leaves us to stem a nosebleed on the touchline received when wearing a ball flush in the puss and Brazil play keepball in his absence until Neymar, of all people, loses it with a clumsy touch.
10 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Up come Miranda and Thiago Silva and Neymar aims for them, bending a right-footer into the box but Gonzalez and Duarte have them covered and head it away.
8 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Willian and Fagner combine down the right again and though Ruiz stops the first thrust and seems to be fouled by Fagner a split-second after he intercepted the return from Willian but the ref doesn't concur. When the ball falls kindly for Willian he drops to the floor when a Costa Rica defender breathes on him and Brazil have a free-kick wide on the right, a couple of metres beyond the area.
5 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Better from Ruiz who is playing tucked in on the left and turns quickly to receive the goalkick and hook it on to Urena who storms through the middle but runs out of space, isolated from his support runners, and Miranda and Thiago Silva hound him down.
4 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Fagner injects some urgency and sprints forward and hits a low outswinging cross that Gabriel Jesus snatches at and fires his shot into the defender from 15m. Ruiz makes an error with his clearance and gives it to Coutinho who flays a right-foot shot over the bar from the right of the D.
2 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Wee Fagner attacks up the right, taps it up to Willian who is clipped by the former Fulham striker Bryan Ruiz. Brazil go backwards from the free-kick, play it across the defence and make laboured progress back up the right.
1 min Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Here we go, Brazil, their half in sunshine, attacking towards the darkness. There's something profound in that.
Brazil in their beautiful blue away kit
Obtusely underrated by fashion's Thom Gibbs:
As do the Costa Ricans
Blanca y pura descansa la paz.
Peace rests white and pure.
Marcelo gives the Brazil national anthem
Some proper gusto in his singing.
Entre outras mil
És tu, Brasil
Ó Pátria amada
Out come the teams
And Thiago Silva is today's beneficiary of Tite's rotating captaincy. Imagine what the armband fetishists among the Fleet Street 'dukes' would have to say about that if it happened with England at a tournament.
Since the last World Cup
Keylor Navas has won three Champions Leagues, a Liga, a Spanish Super Cup, three Fifa Club World Championships and two Uefa Super Cups. And still he doesn't convince many critics.
Martin O'Neill on Lionel Messi
'Best player I've ever seen. He needs to find space for himself. He does that all the time. He can do it. He's playing as if he has a great weight, as if has a concern [that he needs to win the World Cup to make him a true great]. I'm the first to say he doesn't but he's playing as if he does.
Cut out the 90 minutes and go straight for the result
Play the predictor.
And with tournament history
Brazil Alisson; Fagner, Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Casemiro, Paulinho, Coutinho; Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar.
Costa Rica Navas; Acosta, Gonzalez, Duarte; Gamboa, Borges, Guzman, Oviedo; Bryan Ruiz, Venegas; Urena.
Referee Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands).
And in the Fifa format
And Costa Rica also make one change
Sunderland's Bryan Oviedo comes in for Francisco Calvo.
OFFICIAL XI vs Costa Rica:— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStat) June 22, 2018
Fágner, Silva, Miranda, Marcelo;
Paulinho, Casemiro, Coutinho;
Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar.#Russia2018
Here are you teams
Brazil make one change ... at right-back, Fagner for Danilo. Tite knows I suppose but I think they're going to need Renato Augusto in the later stages and it would have been good to give him a run today.
OFFICIAL XI vs Costa Rica:— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStat) June 22, 2018
Fágner, Silva, Miranda, Marcelo;
Paulinho, Casemiro, Coutinho;
Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar.#Russia2018
Preview: Brazil must become the collective once again
Friday’s opening match pits a nation with five World Cups against a team that has only beaten them once in 10 meetings in a fixture someone will no doubt call the Copo de Café. Brazil, for it is they, won nine of the previous meetings, including victories at the 1990 World Cup (1-0, by virtue of Muller’s goal in Turin) and the 2002 tournament (5- 2 with Ronaldo scoring two, Edmilson, Rivaldo and Junior one each though Costa Rica fought back from 3-0 down to 3-2 just after half-time).
I was all set to regale you with the tale of how Costa Rica have held the PanAmerican Championship bragging rights for 58 years since recording their sole victory in San Jose in 1960, but that scoundrel, Rob Smyth, once of this place, hared out of the blocks this morning and breasted the tape with his piece while I was still trying to make sense of the stuff coming out of the Google translate mincer. So I won’t repeat his work, suffice to say Costa Rica, quarter-finalists four years ago, have no significant history of beating Brazil and even their one win came against a scratch side devoid of its 1958 World Cup winners who stayed at home.
So let us focus, instead, on Brazil’s manager Tite and what he should do today. He got here by being as much a pragmatist as his predecessors but introduced one crucial change he refined at Corinthians that has re-established midfield as the power train of the team. Luiz Felipe Scolari deployed flying full-backs as the creative motor of his side, stationing two holding midfielders in front of the centre-backs, a forceful, hard-running centre-forward ahead of wide men and a 10. Hulk and Oscar were no one’s idea of wingers but they started on the flanks and cut in to leave space for the bombing Dani Alves and Marcelo. Dunga tried variations of 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 but could never get the balance right.
By contrast Tite had stuck with largely the same personnel yet turned them into a coherent whole. Renato Augusto, a 2016 Olympic gold medallist, was already in Dunga’s side but has been transformed into a deep-lying playmaker in the Andrea Pirlo mode by Tite who used him there for Corinthians. During four seasons at Bayer Leverkusen, he played behind the strikers but in this withdrawn role he dictates the tempo and runs the game. Behind him sat Casemiro or Fernandinho and to his right the recalled Paulinho. These three roles were the heart of the new Brazil, a holder, a playmaker and a box-to-box raider just as Ralf, Jadson and Elias drove Corinthians on. With Neymar to the left, Philippe Coutinho or Willian on the right and Gabriel Jesus or Roberto Firmino through the middle they have the flexibility to spring from 4-1-4-1 to 4-3-3 and, with Paulinho’s lung-bursting runs, something approaching the 4-2-4 that makes the heart sing. But against Switzerland Tite dropped Renato Augusto, moved Coutinho into midfield from where he scored a terrific goal. The change, however, left the side unbalance and the motor clogged up, piddle in the petrol tank.
Brazil do not have midfielders of Gerson’s quality or Socrates’ or Falcao’s, but Tite did have a functioning system in which the players understood their assignments and had the confidence to trust the coach’s judgment. Last March Paulinho scored a hat-trick in a 1-4 victory over Uruguay in Montevideo arriving each time with the judicious timing of a player who reads the game fluently. As we saw at the typically bombastic Barcelona unveiling in August, Paulinho may not be able to execute pointless tricks with precision but stick him in a match and he plays with poise and intelligence.
In addition Tite had addressed the reliance on Neymar by sometimes, paraphrasing Barry Davies’ immortal line, “using him by not using him”. “The collective empowers the individual,” the coach says. “If the ball arrives to Neymar, they mark [him], but the other side is more exposed. Coutinho creates chances. Enter Fagner, enter Paulinho. We take Neymar to one side, let him be isolated and make room for another.” You can tell by the tears when Tite praised him last week and pledged his support, that Neymar, caricatured as a prima donna, is anything but in a canary shirt. Note that the collective ‘empowers the individual’ but only to serve the collective and Neymar buys into this.
Brazil have to get back to that today and could begin by using the system that transformed their fortunes over the past two years. The World Cup is no place for experimentation and stroking the egos of nine-figure transfer-fee talents.