Phillipe Coutinho’s extra-time goal saved Brazil from a disaster tie against Costa Rica in Friday’s group stage win. The 2-0 result decided with Coutinho’s goal in the 91st and a cherry on the top from Neymar in the 97th was hard-earned for Brazil, who found it tough sledding against an inspired Tico defense led by Real Madrid goalie Keylor Navas.
Costa Rica’s five-man backline showed from the start it was up to the task today in defending Brazil’s potent attack and Brazil’s slumbering pace at the outset almost snowballed into a nightmare when Celso Borges had an open shot in the box, but the veteran midfielder pushed it a bit too far to the left.
Brazil’s attack came alive in the 26th minute when left back Marcelo had his shot outside the box denied but striker Gabriel Jesus seemed to score on the ricochet. The would-be goal was correctly called off though as the forward was well offsides.
Brazil’s attack came right back in the next minute with Neymar streaking down the left side past Cristian Gamboa, but the all-world goalie Navas came out to dispossess the Brazilian star and keep Costa Rica alive.
Brazil’s Seleção kept the pressure up with a succession of long tries from Marcelo and Philipe Coutinho, who was trying to find a goal reminiscent of his beauty in the opener against Switzerland.
After the half, Brazil’s pace picked up considerably. Increased pressure from the right side stemming from the substitution of Douglas Costa in place of Willian nearly led to a Brazilian goal but the ball was miraculously brought in again by Navas.
Mere seconds later, Brazil was back on the attack and Gabriel Jesus had the closest call up to that point with a header that had Navas beat but it hit the top post.
Neymar had a chance in front of goal in the 56th minute on a feed from Paulinho but Navas climbed up to save it right under the bar.
Costa Rica responded with some positive action in the box on two separate occasions that gave Brazil a scare.
Neymar had another open opportunity in the 72nd minute after taking the ball easily from Gamboa, but Brazil’s star pushed the ball wide to the right
In the 78th minute, a penalty was awarded to Brazil after Neymar seemed to be dragged down in the box by defender Giancarlo González. But the newly instituted Video Assistant Referee (VAR) overturned the call after it showed Gonález grazed Neymar, who tried to sell his fall.
When six minutes of extra time were added, though, Brazil’s star-studded attack responded to the pressure as Gabriel Jesus left a ball off to Coutinho, who came out of nowhere to finally put one past Navas. Minutes later, Neymar added the exclamation point and gave Brazil another goal to help in case of a tiebreaker in the group.
The win puts Brazil atop of the group and leaves Costa Rica eliminated from getting to the Round of 16. Their Seleção will return to action Wednesday to play Serbia and fight for the top spot out of the group.