It took a bit of frustration and quality for Brazil to break Costa Rica's resistance and clinch the match. Quality played a role when coach Tite introduced the likes of Douglas Costa and Roberto Firmino in the second-half, who were instrumental in turning things around for their team. When it comes to frustration, it played a major part in the fortunes of one player. Frustration became Neymar's identity for 90-odd minutes, but instead of giving up, the forward became even more determined to score for his team. When Philippe Coutinho scored the first goal late into the match, Neymar could've taken a step back, but the man wasn't done. Only a goal would've given him some comfort, and he finally scored in the 97th minute of the match.
Before the start of the game, there were concerns about Neymar's fitness and doubts prevailed over his participation in the match against Costa Rica. It turned be a minor ankle injury and Neymar recovered in time to start the match. Tite made one change to his line-up which started in the previous game. Danilo was ruled out due to a thigh problem and the team's third-choice right-back Fagner made his way into the playing XI. Tite would've pretty much guessed the game plan of Costa Rica. Considering Brazil's superiority, it was clear that Costa Rica would play the defensive game and rely on counter-attack to make an impact.
The game followed the predictable path with Brazil dominating possession and created more chances. They started slowly but after around 20 minutes, Brazil started asserting themselves in the game. Most of the attacks came from the left side with Marcelo, Coutinho and Neymar creating opportunities for their team. During that phase, it looked like it was just a matter of time before Brazil break the defence and take the lead in the match. But after numerous surging runs from Brazilian attackers and plenty of shots from inside and outside the box, Tite's team had nothing to show for it.
At the centre of it all was Neymar and his desperation. In Brazil's first match against Switzerland, Neymar was heavily man-marked and was left bereft of any space. Against Costa Rica, Neymar did well to find space, and create few chances but he did not come close to score a goal. As the match progressed, Neymar became more and more obnoxious, screaming for fouls, arguing with the referee and exchanging not-so-pleasant-words with few Costa Rican players. On one side there was the frustrated Neymar and on other side, there was an inspired Coutinho. The Barcelona midfielder was the creative centre of the team, coming close on more than one occasion to break the deadlock.
Realising that Brazil are dependent on particular players for chances, Tite introduced Costa in the second-half, replacing the ineffective Willian on the right. The change helped Brazil retain their attacking intensity while ensuring that there's always pressure on Costa Rica. Neymar huffed and puffed but Costa, Coutinho, Paulinho now stepped up to provide impetus to the team. The introduction of Firmino was another step in the right direction. The Liverpool forward has shown against the Swiss that his hold up play and abilities to win headers makes him a slightly better choice in front of the goal than Gabriel Jesus.
Despite all the attempts on goal, it looked like the breakthrough will come from a penalty. It was that man, Neymar, again who suggested to the referee that Giancarlo Gonzalez has in fact pulled him down inside the box. Bjorn Kuipers, at first, thought the challenge was illegal and pointed towards the spot. But then, VAR came into picture and Kuipers, after watching the replays, decided against the penalty. It was certainly the right call because Gonzalez's contact did not warrant a penalty. And Neymar's over-the-top acting to the challenge could've prompted the referee in showing a yellow card to him.
Brazil's joy turned into despair in matter of few seconds and Neymar appeared as if he was on the edge of an emotional breakdown. Time was running out for Brazil, but Costa Rica became more adamant. They seemed to have answers to every attacking move by the Brazilians. A draw could've heavily dented Brazil's chances of progressing to the next round while Costa Ricans' brave show might have become a chapter in the history books of the FIFA World Cup.
Relief and happiness for Brazil arrived after 90 minutes thanks to the best player of the night — Coutinho. Firmino did well to hold his markers and jumped to win a header at a crucial position. Jesus took one touch to control the ball, but Coutinho latched onto it in no time and buried the chance behind Navas. Brazil players and fans in the stadium celebrated the goal like they had won the title itself. To be fair, it did make sense because the goal had a feeling of warriors finally conquering the last frontier after years of attack.
This was not the end though as Brazil pressed forward again to heap more misery on Costa Rica. They attacked their opponents throughout the game and even after scoring the elusive first goal, they didn't stop. More than anybody, it was Neymar who was still trying to end his agony. The universe finally succumbed and Neymar netted from a good pass from Costa.
The scoreline might be cruel to Costa Rica, but it also did justice to Brazil's perseverance. They kept coming at their opponents, and the quality of depth in their ranks made the win possible for them. Such victories are important for the team, especially in a tournament like the World Cup because of the psychological impact. The hard-fought win against Costa Rica is definitely a morale-booster for a team who were pre-tournament favourites for the title. Neymar, after the final whistle, was on his knees, crying profusely. The win and the goal mean so much to him and it did feel genuine.
Updated Date: Jun 23, 2018 14:47:12 IST