Neymar Jr. scored his 56th goal for Brazil in a crucial Group E Fifa World Cup match in St. Petersburg today in literally the last minute to seal the deal in a 2-0 win. When the referee blew his whistle for full-time, Neymar broke down in the middle of the park. He knew the importance of this victory and how hard his team had fought to get past a resilient Costa Rica that also snatched a point off a tough opponent like Brazil.
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The PSG star wasn't the only one showing extraordinary emotions, his coach Tite did a somersault after Philipe Coutinho broke the deadlock in the 91st minute after arriving late in the box to latch onto an accidental lay-off by Gabriel Jesus.
By the half-time though, it didn't look like Brazil would go home with three points. They looked uninspiring. That was the story in the last match too. Gone was their famed 'joga bonito' style of play. And, as it happened in the end, Brazil are now looking at their individual talents to take them over the rope.
Against a disciplined Costa Rica defence that had five at the back to start with complemented by four in the midfield, Brazil were unable to put a ball past goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who was excellent or even threaten to do so in the first half. The only remarkable chance came in the 27th minute when Coutinho clipped a brilliant pass over the Costa Rica defence to Neymar. However, the PSG's winger's terrible first touch gave Keylor Navas ample time to come off his line and grab the ball. Otherwise, the Brazilians looked blunt against Costa Rica who seemed happy to stay at the back and play second fiddle.
The right-wing is practically dead with every move going through either Coutinho, Marcelo or Neymar down the left, none of the moves produced anything though.
Brazil stepped on the gas in the second half and created chances after chances only for their profligate forwards to waste them. Neymar, especially, got at the end of many good moves but couldn't find the back of the net. At one point, around the 70th minute, after curling one of his efforts outside the post, Neymar hid his face with his jersey, seemingly exasperated and annoyed at himself. Costa Rica were looking like they'd steal a point away and got so courageous that they even ventured into the Brazilian half once in a while.
Relief came for Brazil in the 91st minute when Coutinho stabbed home a stray ball after Jesus failed to connect well with the ball. Neymar guaranteed the victory when he scored in practically the last minute of the match, the 96th minute when he converted from close range after Douglas Costa served him the ball on a plate from six yards.
Brazil go home with all three points and Costa Rica go home after one more match in the World Cup, but the Brazilians know they have to improve in bounds and leaps if they want to have a serious shot at the trophy. For now, star individuals did the job for them.
Brazil’s second goal was timed at 96:49 – the latest recorded 90th minute goal in a World Cup match since 1966
Live commentary: Brazil vs Costa Rica match.
90'+6': Brillaint cross and Neymar scores for the first time in World Cup 2018. Here is the final whistle, and Brazil win by 2-0
90': Coutinho's magic works yet again, He scores for Brazil to save the day.
85': Defence is winning in this game. Frustration is getting better of Neymar and Co.
78': No penalty awarded to Brazil as Neymar falls on the ground.
76': The Costa Rican defence is nothing but exemplary. By comparison, the Brazilian attack is all over the place.
72': There was no one to block Neymar. There was Navas on the goal and Neymar flew the ball over the crossbar. Neymar might have just missed the easiest and the biggest chance to score in the match. He his hiding his face, and rightly so.
68': Firminho in for Pualinho. This is a clear indication that Brazil is trying to up the ante and attack more.
65': Less than half an hour left, and Brazilians look frustrated.
62': Attempts, Attempts, Attempts and more Attempts by Brazil. Scoreboard yet to move, The passing and midfield seem to be weak for Brazil. Neymar more animated than ever.
58': Brilliant attack by Neymar and what a save by Navas. This man is like an octopus.
56': Paulinho gives a brilliant cross to Neymar and he disappointed yet again.
54': Bolanos replaces Urena for Costa Rica
47': Just two minutes into the half and Brazil is on all out attack, and Navas is the barrier Brazil is unable to breach.
46': Neymar tries to score in an unconventional way. Keylor Navas saves a brilliant attempt.
Douglas Costa comes in for Willian, who has been wasteful in the first half.
Second half begins
45': Halftime. Costa Rica have successfully stopped Brazil from scoring and frustrated them to the core. A goalless half ends.
44': Neymar takes the ball in Rican half but is floored right outside the box. Another failed attemt. making a habit out of it are the Brazilians.
42': pathetic cross by Paulinho. What are the rest of the players doing? Despite more than 60 per cent ball possession, they are yet to find the net.
34': Still the game is continuing in Costa Rican box, too many desperate attempts by Brazilians. No outcome. Must compliment the Rican defence. Strong enough to frustrate the opposition.
31': Brazil is launching a scathing attack on the Costa Rican post but there is absolutely no goal.
28': Poor crosses inside the box continue for Brazil. Costa Rica surviving dangerously.
27': Neymar runs with the ball towards the gaol poast but the Rican goalkeeper comes out and saves a certain goa. Neymar not in his best form.
26': Brazil scores but it is off side. What a disappointment for Gabriel. He intercepted the shot but was off side inside the box, the flag was raised.
23': Free kick to Brazil, again, a failed attempt. Silva could not find the net.
16': Free kick to Brazil outside the box, useless attempt.
15': Ricans on the attack and Neymar is down, or is he? He is holding his shin.
14': Brazil is predictably keeping the ball possession and launching more attacks on the Costa Rica goal post. Costa Rican defence is not all bad. Brazil is not having an easy go over there.
10': Silva is the captain today for Brazil.
1': Costa Rica gets the first free-kick of the math.
The national anthems are done and both the teams are in all readiness to kick off the match.
Head to head:
Brazil have won nine of their 10 previous internationals against Costa Rica, losing only in a friendly in March 1960.
The squad is out for Brazil vs Costa Rica match.
The teams are in for the first match of the day! #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/OwQiIh2PY0
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 22, 2018
Brazil squad: Alisson; Fagner, Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Casemiro, Paulinho, Coutinho; Willian, Jesus, Neymar. Formation: 4-3-3
Costa Rica squad: Navas; Acosta, Gonzalez, Duarte; Gamboa, Borges, Guzman, Oviedo; Ruiz, Venegas; Urena. Foramtion: 3-4-2-1
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands).
He was hunted down mercilessly by the Swiss, drawing 10 of Brazil's 19 fouls, as many as some entire teams.
Neymar also lacked the zip which made him the world's most expensive footballer when French heavyweights Paris St Germain signed him from Spanish giants FC Barcelona last August.
There was an injury scare after he limped out of Tuesday's training session with a sore ankle but to his team's relief the forward is expected to be fit for what could be Brazil's fourth World Cup match without a win.
Costa Rica, on their part, are desperate for points after they lost their opener to Serbia.
Quarter-finalists in the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Costa Rica have lost seven of their last nine matches and scored only five goals in the process.
"It is going to be a difficult game as are all games in the World Cup," Brazil attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho was quoted as saying.
"They are a good team. We saw the game against Serbia, and it was only decided through a dead ball situation."
"This is another opportunity for us. We need to do it, we are all focused. We are mentally strong to play a great game."
Where to watch
Brazil vs Costa Rica
will be broadcast on Sony Ten 2, Sony Ten 2 HD, Sony ESPN, Sony ESPN HD in English Commentary and Sony Ten 3 and Sony 3 HD in Hindi Commentary.
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson, Cassio
Defenders: Miranda, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Filipe Luis, Fagner, Pedro Geromel, Danilo
Midfielders: Casemiro, Fernandinho, Paulinho, Renato Augusto, Philippe Coutinho, Willian, Fred
Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Douglas Costa, Neymar, Taison
Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas , Patrick Pemberton, Leonel Moreira;
Defenders: Cristian Gamboa, Ian Smith, Ronald Matarrita, Bryan Oviedo, Oscar Duarte, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Francisco Calvo, Kendall Waston, Johnny Acosta;
Midfielders: David Guzman, Yeltsin Tejeda, Celso Borges, Randall Azofeifa, Rodney Wallace, Bryan Ruiz, Daniel Colindres, Christian Bolanos;
Johan Venegas, Joel Campbell, Marco Urena.
Brazil is making sure everyone knows Neymar is perfectly fit at the World Cup.
A day after he limped out of training and raised further doubts about his physical condition in Russia, the Brazilian soccer federation was quick to tell the world the team's biggest star was just fine.
Brazil had a closed practice session Wednesday, two days before its game against Costa Rica in St. Petersburg, but the federation posted photos and a video of Neymar in action in training with the rest of the squad.
"Brazil practicing and Neymar participating normally in the team's activity," the federation said in a Twitter post.
One of the photos showed the playmaker touching the ball with his injured right ankle.
"Take a look at Neymar practicing in Sochi!" read the post linking to the video which showed the playmaker training without any sign of a limp.
The images showed him exchanging passes and making challenges. In a longer version of the video sent to journalists, Neymar took free kicks.
"Neymar practiced the whole time," the federation later said on its website. "He showed confidence and participated actively during the whole session."
The federation later released a video with Neymar "I trained well, felt comfortable," Neymar said. "The foot is fine."
Brazilian media had already been speculating that Brazil could be hiding Neymar's real condition after he couldn't finish practice on Tuesday. He was visibly in pain as he walked from the field accompanied by the team's doctor.
He had been playing keep-away with a few other players when he started showing signs of discomfort, and at one point bent down and grabbed his ankle. He tried to continue playing but a few moments later decided to leave, kicking a ball away with his left foot before limping away.
The federation said he left the session only as a precaution because he had been in pain since the team's 1-1 draw against Switzerland on Sunday, when he was consistently fouled.
It had already guaranteed after the match there was nothing wrong with Neymar even though he was limping when he talked to reporters. It had already confirmed he would be available to play against Costa Rica.
According to Brazil, Neymar's ankle problem had nothing to do with the foot injury that sidelined him for about three months earlier this year, prompting concerns about his fitness heading into Russia.
Brazil coach Tite said before the tournament started that Neymar wouldn't likely be fully fit until the third match of the group stage. He was heavily marked and struggled against Switzerland, which fouled him 10 times in the match in Rostov-on-Don.
The draw left Brazil and Switzerland two points behind group leader Serbia, which defeated Costa Rica in its opener. Anything but victory could leave Brazil, one of the main title favorites in Russia, in a difficult position to advance from the group stage.