SUWON, South Korea — Any hope that Costa Rica might have harbored of Brazil — who had already qualified before Thursday’s game — taking it easy on it in Suwon were quickly dispelled in a flurry of early goals in an incident-packed match that eventually ended 5-2, the third straight victory for the new favorite for the World Cup.
Costa Rica’s effort was admirable, but this defeat put it level on points with Turkey, which beat China 3-0 and advanced to the final 16 on goal difference. Before the final whistle, the Costa Rica players knew their fate. They had pulled back two goals and given the South Americans arguably their hardest 15-minute spell of the World Cup so far, but in the end it was in vain.
Brazil coach Luis Felipe Scolari admitted that the two goals his team let in would be the focus of some work before the next stage of the competition begins. “Yes, we made some mistakes and we gave some chances away, but we know where the problems lie and we are working on them,” he said.
He also tried to play down rampant expectations among Brazil’s supporters, heightened by the early departures of France and Argentina, saying, “I must say that the teams that remain in the final 16 are the best teams and all it means is that we still have to face them.”
Surprisingly, given the one-sidedness of the final score, Costa Rica recorded the first two goalscoring opportunities, a free-kick from Walter Centeno diverted away by Edmilson in the seventh minute and, a minute later, Mauricio Solis really should have done better from a free header just a couple of meters away from an unguarded net, but sent the ball over the net.
His miss was punished in the 10th minute, when Junior took down a ball over his covering defender, put in a perfectly weighted cross that Ronaldo, holding off two defenders tucked past Erick Lonnis. The Brazilian had done all the hard work, although the goal was credited as an own goal against Luis Marin.
Two minutes later, Ronaldo repeated the trick, fighting off two defenders after a short left-wing corner, turning the Costa Ricans and shooting past the despairing lunges of two others. Displaying his toothy grin to the crowd, the Brazilian fans banged their drums even harder.
Centeno had an excellent opportunity to pull a goal back shortly afterward, but blazed horribly wide after being found unmarked just eight meters out, while in the 28th minute Mauricio Wright misdirected his shot above the Brazilian bar from a corner and another chance had gone begging.
Brazil had failed to take its own opportunities in the meantime, although Scolari must have been concerned at how much room his defenders were giving the opposition in the penalty box. Against a more clinical team, Brazil might have already conceded three or four goals.
As it was, Brazil extended its lead on 37 minutes, Edmilson scoring with a spectacular overhead kick from another cross by Edilson. He made it look easy, but the cross had taken a deflection off a defender and the Olympique Lyonnais defender had to shift his balance as quick as lightning, giving Lonnis no chance.
But within a minute, Costa Rica had clawed back a goal and given itself the faintest glimmer of hope of the draw that would see it through to the next round, Paulo Wanchope scoring after a crisp one-two with Wright inside the penalty area.
In a half with plenty of goal-mouth action, Rivaldo missed a relatively easy chance, firing high from a left-wing cross, while the same player saw a free-kick rebound off Lonnis’ right goalpost.
The halftime break gave Costa Rica the opportunity to regroup and it came out aggressively, a shot by Ronald Gomez was held low by Marcos in the Brazil goal and then Anderson Polga was forced to clear off his own goal line after Wanchope had beaten a defender and the goalkeeper.
After Gomez had tipped a thunderous shot from Carlos Castro over his bar, one wondered whether the Brazilians would whether this storm; In the 56th minute, they couldn’t, as a diving Gomez powered a right-wing cross past the helpless goalkeeper. The glimmer of hope had suddenly brightened.
But to say this stung Brazil into getting its act together would be an understatement; within seven minutes it had scored two more goals, one a deft touch from Rivaldo that was perfectly placed, the other a powerful run and shot into the bottom left corner of Lonnis’ goal by Junior.
Costa Rica attempted what would have been a second — and most remarkable — comeback, and was unlucky when a corner in the 70th minute was diverted onto his own post by a Brazil defender.
Costa Rica substitute Rolando Fonseca came close to narrowing the deficit in the 77th minute, his angled shot drifting just wide of the upright from a narrow angle, but even the introduction of Winston Parks — the Udinese striker whose late goal in the Turkey match salvaged a draw — was not enough to pull back the three goals Costa Rica needed.
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