Five things we learned: Brazil v Costa Rica
Firmino should be starting for Brazil and Neymar's form a concern. It's five things we learned about Brazil v Costa Rica.
FIRMINO SHOULD BE STARTING
Brazil have been pedestrian for long periods during their first two games of Group E with their star studded front line finding it difficult to create the sort of chances we’re used to seeing from Brazil at World Cups gone by.
It looked as though they were heading for a disconcerting draw until Tite decided to change things up and bring on Roberto Firmino. Bobby's tenacity, hold-up play and vision were the key to finally unlocking the Costa Rican defence.
Surely he must get more game time as Brazil progress through the tournament.
NEYMAR OFF FORM
Brazil’s talisman found it very tough to impose himself on the game. He struggled to produce his typically exquisite final product and too many times wasted opportunities that could’ve put the tie to bed long before the late drama in stoppage time.
The World Cup is a far cry from thumping Ligue 1 teams week-in-week-out for PSG and he’ll have to do more to live up to his inflated rating.
VAR COMMON SENSE
There’s nothing in laws of the game that allows a player to use an arm hold an opponent away from the ball, and the slow motion replay seemed to suggest just that. But we, and the VAR refs, knew Neymar could have continued playing instead of lurching backwards so they subsequently decided that the contact from Gonzalez was not enough to impede him. Great decision.
Contentious, nonsensical decisions have held football back for so long, and it's a relief to feel that VAR is living up to be the solution we were hoping it would be.
TEAMS LEAVING IT LATE YET AGAIN
If and when Brazil seal their spot in the next round, people will quickly forget that they would have come perilously close to an embarrassing early exit from the World Cup had they not scraped the win today. Once again at these championships a team has turned things round in the dying moments. Coutinho’s 91st minute goal and Neymar’s 97th were the sixth and seventh stoppage time goals in just the opening nine days of the tournament.
BIG TEAMS NOT AS DOMINANT
The world’s football talent appears to have more depth than ever before with plenty of ‘smaller’ nations bringing strong squads capable of making it very difficult for anyone. Today Brazil only just ended their worst run of World Cup results since 1978, and that says a lot of about the strength of world football.
At the last three World Cups combined, Brazil scored 19 goals in the group stages squashing teams almost at will. Who'd have thought we'd see them deliriously celebrating a victory over group underdogs.