Brazil 2-0 Costa Rica: Coutinho and Neymar score stoppage time goals

Brazil 2-0 Costa Rica: Philippe Coutinho spares South Americans‘ blushes with stoppage time winner after VAR reverses Neymar penalty decision

The board had just been raised. Six minutes of injury time. Six minutes for Brazil to arrive at the 2018 World Cup. Six minutes that may come to define their campaign, for better or worse.

They didn‘t look like Brazil, in their blue. They didn‘t play like Brazil, either. When would they show themselves, the Selecao. Where were they, this nation that defines a World Cup like no other?

Here, at last, we are pleased to say. The tournament has already lost Mo Salah, it may be without Lionel Messi and Argentina by the middle of next week. Surely not Brazil as well. ‘Ciao, Messi!‘ Brazil‘s fans had mocked, arriving at Novokrestovskaya metro station near the St Petersburg ground. But for a while it looked as if it might be ‘pa-ka Neymar!‘ too.

Philippe Coutinho was the Brazil hero as he grabbed his side all three points with a late winner against Costa Rica

The Barcelona midfielder popped up in the 91st minute of the game to poke the ball between the legs of Keylor Navas

Neymar keeps his eyes on the ball to volley home in the 97th minute and make sure of all three points for the Brazilians

The ball nestles in the back of the net as the Barcelona forward prepares to wheel away and celebrate his last-ditch effort

Casemiro and Douglas Costa race away to the corner to celebrate with Neymar after his first goal of the tournament

The forward consoles Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas at full-time, with the defeat confirming the Central Americans‘ exit

Neymar screams for a penalty to be given after he feels he is pulled back by Costa Rica defender Giancarlo Gonzalez

The Brazil forward falls theatrically to the ground after staggering backwards inside the box under the challenge

Furious Costa Rica players surround the referee after he awarded the spot kick to the South American side

The decision was reviewed by VAR after the extra officials deemed there to have been a clear and obvious error

Brazil‘s No 10 throws his hands up in disgust after the original decision was overturned at the St Petersburg Stadium

MATCH FACTS

Brazil (4-3-3): Alisson 6.5; Fagner 7, Thiago Silva 6, Miranda 6, Marcelo 7.5; Paulinho 5.5 (Firmino 68min, 7), Casemiro 6, Coutinho 8; Willian 5 (Costa 46, 7), Gabriel Jesus 6 (Fernandinho 90), Neymar 7.

Scorers: Coutinho 90+1, Neymar 90+7.

Booked: Neymar, Coutinho.

Manager: Tite 6.5.

Costa Rica (5-4-1): Navas 8; Gamboa 7 (Calvo 75, 5.5), Acosta 7, Gonzalez 7, Duarte 7, Oviedo 7; Venegas 7, Guzman 7 (Tejeda 83), Borges 7, Ruiz 7; Urena 6 (Bolanos 54, 6.5). Booked: Acosta.

Manager: Oscar Ramirez 7.5.

Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland) 7.

Attendance: 64,468.

That Russia is not saying goodbye to one of the World Cup‘s superstars just yet was down to a goal largely forged in the Premier League. Not a very Brazilian goal with its cross from wide, its header, its Frank Lampard-like finish.

Nobody greatly cared about that. Those who had followed Brazil to Russia had long given up demanding or expecting the beautiful game. Now they just wanted a win. Nothing fancy, nothing lovely, nothing that would look wonderful if set to a carnival samba. Three points would do.

Enclaves of Costa Rica fans were celebrating. Their players were dropping like flies, taking time out of the game. There were six minutes to save the day, to make Brazilian hearts sing any old way.

Marcelo whipped a cross in from the left, Roberto Firmino rose to win the header, Gabriel Jesus couldn‘t quite bring it under control, Philippe Coutinho arrived late to finish smartly past Keylor Navas. There it was.

Brazil in front. Brazil on their way. The boys may have been in blue, but at least they were not yellow. They shrugged off the pressure, and expectation, to win, at the death with the weight of a World Cup bearing down on them.

The second came, with almost the last kick of the game. It had been a torrid night for Neymar. Booked for dissent, denied a penalty by VAR for diving, gingerly feeling his troublesome ankle whenever his touch was off, which was often.

Redemption arrived late. Douglas Costa — on at half-time for the careless Willian — crossed and Neymar shaped for a tap-in. It was nothing special, but it plainly meant a lot. Like Messi, Neymar carries a nation at this World Cup. Unlike Messi, it does not appear to have suppressed him entirely.

Keylor Navas produces an outstanding save to keep out a right-footed effort from Neymar, tipping it over the crossbar

Gabriel Jesus watches on as his seemingly goalbound header crashes back into play off the crossbar in the second half

Philippe Coutinho‘s effort was heading into the net until it struck Cristian Gamboa and was diverted wide by the defender

The Barcelona midfielder cannot quite believe it as the South Americans are denied yet again by a bullish Costa Rica defence

Gabriel Jesus is sent flying by an aerial challenge with David Guzman during the first half of their Group E clash

Ex-Fulham midfielder Bryan Ruiz attempts to cut a path through Brazil‘s defence as Thiago Silva and Willian look to challenge

Neymar found it just as tough as his team-mates to create chances early on, here being tackled by Johnny Acosta (No 2)

This was far from a good game for Neymar and contained no little ignominy considering his tumble exposed by the cameras, yet he ultimately helped drag his team through.

It was intense, though, and at the end, coach Tite could barely smile. Brazil will not wish to endure a repeat against Serbia next week. A second draw would have left Brazil desperately vulnerable but for long periods that looked to be all they would get. A brilliant rearguard action by Costa Rica, inspired by Real Madrid goalkeeper Navas, was partly responsible, but inescapably Brazil are not quite themselves here.

The injury to Neymar is a key factor, obviously, because he does not look comfortable, but the rigours of the European season — now almost all Brazil‘s starting players reside abroad — the pressure of expectation and a fluctuating tempo all made a contribution to a difficult afternoon, encapsulated by Neymar‘s desperate dive 11 minutes from time.

Thankfully, VAR corrected it, after referee Bjorn Kuipers initially gave a penalty. Neymar had made it look as if he was tugged backwards, arms whirling like propellers. On closer inspection, this was entirely false. He should have been booked there and then.

Soon after, he was booked for dissent, anyway, disputing another decision. He left the field in tears at the end. They might have reflected his joy. They should have been tears of embarrassment. His play-acting was quite pitiful.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward reacts after missing one of the few clearcut chances presented to his side in St Petersburg

Brazil‘s No 10 is stopped by Costa Rica goalkeeper Navas as he tries to round the Real Madrid goalkeeper

Neymar checks on Navas after the two come together in a heavy challenge inside the Costa Rican penalty area

Manchester City striker Jesus produced a ferocious finish from close range before half-time, only to see it ruled out for offside

Celso Borges (No 5) reacts after missing a great chance to put Costa Rica in front, after the ball was laid back to him

Brazil had their chances, certainly in the second half. Jesus hit the bar from a cross by Fagner and Coutinho‘s follow-up shot was deflected wide. Navas performed magnificently, too, tipping over a shot by Neymar from close range.

In the 57th minute, Paulinho laid the ball back to Coutinho, who was frustrated by Navas again. Yet for all their possession, Brazil disappointed. Costa Rica defended well but when Casemiro fired a hopeful shot from outside the area with four minutes left, it summed up Brazil‘s struggle. The last time they failed to make it out of the group stage was 1966. It was becoming a distinct possibility.

If further confirmation of Brazil‘s malaise in Russia were needed, consider that until the 41st minute here they did not have a shot on target. It came from a defender, too — Marcelo, of Real Madrid.

Chelsea midfielder Willian struggled to bring any real attacking intent to the Brazil attack and was replaced at half-time

Casemiro was briefly forced off the field of play after picking up a nosebleed during the first half of the Group E encounter 

The Real Madrid midfielder is treated by Brazil medical staff in order to get him back on the field as quickly as possible

Costa Rica supporters in full body paint cheer their side on in St Petersburg during their Group E clash with the Brazilians

No matter the result, Neymar looks in trouble. There were flashes, as there invariably are with such a great player. He killed right back Christian Gamboa in the 18th minute, flicking the ball over his head and sprinting away until tugged back. But that was it, a rare ray of sunlight.

Coutinho fed a lovely ball in to Neymar after 27 minutes, but his first touch was poor and the ball ran to Navas in goal. To the amazement of all, the best chance of the first half belonged to Costa Rica.

It came after 13 minutes when Celso Borges arrived late in the penalty area but shot wide. It was a similar opening to Coutinho‘s in fact, his finish demonstrating the gulf between these teams. Whether the real Brazil will turn up in time for the round of 16 is another matter. First, they must beat Serbia, or maybe risk going head to head with Messi, for leg room on the plane home.

Neymar broke down in tears at the end of the game as the emotions overwhelmed him following his first goal in Russia

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