Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica Takeaways: Brazilians frustrated, disallowed goal, deep defence

With Neymar in the stands, Brazil failed to score against Costa Rica in the opening match of Group D of the Copa America on Monday evening, which ended in a 0-0 draw.

Although Brazil had plenty of possession, Costa Rica’s deep defense managed to scheme against their superior opponents.

Brazil faced further frustration with a number of questionable calls from referees early on, including a Marquinhos goal that was ruled offside by VAR in the 30th minute.

It was an uncertain start for Brazil at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, as they called on 17-year-old Endrik to replace Vinicius Junior in the 71st minute in a bid to find a spark.

The athleteJack Lang, Stuart James and Tom Harris share their insight into the match…

Is deep defense the way to stop Brazil?

Despite their dominance of the ball, it was clear that two of Brazil’s most promising attacking situations came after rare attacks from Costa Rica in the first half. In an ideal world, this is how the Seleção would like to play: on the counter-attack, taking advantage of Vinicius Junior’s directness, as well as Lucas Paqueta’s ability to pick out passes. That’s how they played against England and Spain in March, allowing Dorival Junior to make a promising start as coach.

The problem is that most parties will not attack Brazil with numbers and convictions. As a result, the field is small, players are crowded together, and speed is not a factor. This is very good if you are a Manchester City player and have time to work on passing patterns. It’s much more difficult at international level, and doubly so when your coach has only been in charge for four matches.

Brazil could have done that with all-time top scorer Neymar (center), who watched the match from the stands. (Buddha Mendez/Getty Images)

Brazil has players capable of unlocking. Paqueta is a genius in tight spaces, and Rodrigo is not far behind. Often times, it comes down to patience, something that is not in short supply when it comes to the Seleção. The longer a match goes without goals, the quieter the crowd becomes and the more tension on the pitch increases.

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If you’re being generous, you could say that Brazil created enough chances to win the match several times. But they were given half chances and will know that the other teams in the group will prepare in the same way after this unexpected result.

Can Brazil feel aggrieved by the ruling?

Brazilian players argue with the referee at Sophie Stadium. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Frustration can run rampant when faced with a defensive block like this; Brazil touched 48 balls inside the penalty area throughout a fruitless 90 minutes, while rivals Costa Rica sat deep, absorbing the pressure, and were only able to muster two goals.

As time passed and interventions became more difficult, things began to become worrying. Mexican referee Cesar Ramos allowed plenty of big challenges, including a clumsy clash between full-back Haxel Quiros and Vinicius Junior midway through the first half, in which the defender raced across the tricky winger and made a strong tackle in the penalty area. The teammates couldn’t believe it, they set the tone for the heated competition.

The disallowed goal did little to improve Brazil’s mood. A marginal offside and a lengthy VAR review kept an increasingly agitated group waiting, while a penalty call late in the first half angered most of the squad, who protested to the referee for almost two minutes before the resulting corner was eventually taken. In all honesty, it looked as if Juan Pablo Vargas’ arm was safely hidden at his side.

Another day, Rodrigo scored a first-half penalty, and Brazil secured a routine win. But Dorival Junior’s side will have another hurdle ahead of them against Paraguay on Friday, on a much hotter day. They will need to keep their emotions under control.

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What can Costa Rica take away from this finding?

Costa Rican players kneel on the field after getting the equaliser. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Beautiful? Active number? correct.

For Gustavo Alfaro, Costa Rica’s experienced coach, it was one of those rare nights when things went tactically as planned. Costa Rica certainly rode their luck at times, as Brazil hit the woodwork, wasting numerous chances, and will be sad to be denied a penalty in the first half. But Alvaro’s team played with courage and spirit, defending themselves and showing incredible reliability.

Juan Pablo Vargas expertly led a three-man centre-back that was under siege, and behind him Patrick Siqueira made some crucial saves, including one of his own: Haxil Quiros wore the expression of a very relaxed man after he headed home the far post. He was repelled late. Who needs Keylor Navas, right?

It was an impressive result in the circumstances, considering that there were real concerns about whether Costa Rica might lose to Brazil. This is, after all, a team that has leaked goals at an alarming rate over the past year. Panama twice scored three goals against them, and the United Arab Emirates and Martinique each scored four goals. Brazil? zero.

What did the managers say?

Costa Rica coach Gustavo Alfaro: “I think there was a good job done by the defenders and midfield to limit the chances that Brazil had… We were Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense.” Everyone thought we were dead before the movie started.

Brazil coach Dorival Junior: “Today we did not achieve the results we expected. They were very clear about their game plan. Even with all the substitutions and substitutions we used, it was heavy on marking – double marking was happening everywhere on the pitch. We created many chances. We may not have been the best at finishing attacks, but Brazil played as they trained, winning the ball back with great consistency, but we missed these important details.

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What’s next for each team?

Paraguay vs Brazil – Friday, June 28 at 9:00 PM ET/Saturday, June 29 at 2:00 AM UK (Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV)

Colombia vs Costa Rica – Friday, June 28 at 6:00pm ET/11:00pm UK (State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona)

Required reading

(Top image: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

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