World Cup 2018: Brazil 2-0 Costa Rica: 3 key battles that decided the game
Brazil sealed their first win of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after much effort, and a game that seemed like a 0-0 draw for almost the entire duration ended in anti-climactic fashion as they settled for a 2-0 win in their Group D game.
It took everything Brazil had in them to come up with this win, as Philipe Coutinho and Neymar struck from close distance in stoppage time to ensure that another South American team did not face the music.
This loss knocks Costa Rica out of the WC after their previous loss against Serbia, while Brazil will heave a sigh of relief after a hard-fought win. As always, there were a few individual battles that went a long way in deciding the outcome of the fixture. Here's a look at 3 of them:
#1 Neymar vs Johnny Acosta
After getting fouled repeatedly against Switzerland in the opener, and amid rumours that he might not start the game after suffering a training injury, Neymar started in his usual spot and gave hell for the Costa Rica defence.
Unlike the Swiss way of dealing with Neymar through brute force, Costa Rica adopted a more nuanced approach - crowd him with numbers rather than one man doing the job. And for 90 minutes, it looked like they had taken care of it.
A storming run from Douglas Costa on the right proved a little too fast for the tiring players, and it turned out to be a tap-in for Neymar in front of goal. Until then, Neymar was not at his best.
From a chance he definitely could have scored, Neymar chose to dive and try to earn a penalty - which he had almost done if not for VAR. It is one of those things that he has to change about his game if he wants to be the best.
Johnny Acosta, for the most part, kept things under control but 97 minutes of football was a little too much. He was helped immensely by his keeper and Gamboa playing in front of him, but there is only so much you can do.