Heavily favored Brazil eked out a 1-0 win against Costa Rica in a somewhat uninspired contest Friday night at the National Stadium in La Sabana, west of San José.
Brazil, five-time World Cup champions and largely considered soccer’s most potent power, arrived in Costa Rica with high expectations for their brand of jogo bonito or “beautiful game” characterized by flashy moves and deft technical ability. Throughout the week, the match and arrival of Brazilian stars Ronaldinho, Neymar, Daniel Alves and Marcelo captured national headlines. Though only a friendly match, it was thought that Brazil would put on a show for the sold-out Costa Rican crowd.
Unfortunately, the game will be remembered more for what it failed to be than its end result. After a stale first half, Brazil’s 19-year old star Neymar Santos Junior broke the deadlock and tallied the only goal of the game in the 60th minute, sliding in the six-yard box to poke in a cross that slipped past goalkeeper Keilor Navas.
Despite a handful of decent chances for both sides, much of the game was plagued by possession in the midfield and heavy rains in the second half.
Costa Rica’s best opportunity to score came in the second minute, when defender Heiner Mora lifted a left-footed cross over the Brazilian defense into the stride of forward Alvaro Saborio. Despite finding himself free of the Brazilian defense, the arrival of the pass seemed to catch Saborio by surprise, as the ball struck him in the knees and caromed harmlessly wide. Saborio’s poorly executed opportunity resulted in a showering of jeers from the crowd for the often criticized forward.
In the 62nd minute, Tico midfielder Brian Oveido intercepted a pass and carried the ball down the left flank. He slid a rolling cross across the top of the box in the path of a charging forward Winston Parks, who attempted a first time shot to knot the score. Despite a strong second half, Parks blew the opportunity as he fanned on the shot, and the ball glanced off his right foot and rolled out of bounds.
The game was the debut for new Costa Rican coach Jorge Luis Pinto, as well as the home debut on the national side for 19-year old striker Joel Campbell. In August, Campbell was signed by the famed English club Arsenal of the English Premier League, though was later loaned to FC Lorient in the French First Division. The young star did not start for Costa Rica, though fans chanted his name throughout the second half prior to his entrance onto the pitch. Campbell entered the game in the 64th minute and registered two shots in 26 minutes.
At the conclusion of the match, famed Brazilian star Ronaldinho walked to the center of the field and took a few bows for applauding Costa Rican fans. The 31-year old star, known for his wide grin and electrifying skill, recently returned to the national team after being dropped from the side for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Brazil will host the World Cup in 2014. Costa Rica is expected to face off against Spain, the reigning World Cup Champion, in November.