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Friday, July 12, 2024

Copa América 2024: Brazil vs Costa Rica Match Report

A heroic Costa Rica earned themselves a valuable point after a goalless draw against Brazil in their opening fixture of the 2024 Copa América.

Despite Brazil being one of the pre-tournament favorites to win the cup and odds-on to win this fixture, an organized and determined La Sele restricted them to just three shots on target in the entire match to claim a first point against South American opposition since 2016.

Team News

In team news, head coach Gustavo Alfaro opted for a new look 3-4-1-2 formation to pack out the midfield against a dangerous Brazilian side containing Rodrygo, Vinícius Júnior, and Raphinha, amongst others. For Sequeira, Mitchell, Quirós, Galo, and Ugalde it marked their debut appearances at a major tournament. Juan Pablo Vargas surprisingly deputized for regular starter Julio Cascante at center-back to mark his first international start of 2024. And Jefferson Brenes was brought into the middle of the park to add some much-needed grit in place of winger Josimar Alcócer. But the rest of the starting 11 was more or less as expected.

The contest was played out in front of a predominately Brazilian crowd, with a sea of yellow enveloping the SoFi Stadium. Nonetheless, a hardy pocket of Costa Rican fans still did their best to be heard throughout proceedings.

First Half

Brazil had several half chances in the opening quarter without troubling Patrick Sequeira’s goal. Rodrygo had the game’s first real opportunity when he busted into the box and fired a shot narrowly wide.

As pressure grew, so did wave after wave of Brazil attacks as Los Ticos struggled to get out of their own half or string together any meaningful possession. Vinicius Jr. went down under contact from Haxzel Quirós in the Costa Rica box and appealed for a penalty, but the referee wasn’t interested, with replays showing the contact was shoulder-to-shoulder.

After 26 minutes, Sequeira was forced into a smart stop from Raphinha’s volley at point-blank range, with Bruno Guimaraes throwing himself down from the resulting loose ball, claiming a penalty, which was again waved away by the lenient referee.

Minutes later, the mounting pressure finally took its toll when Raphinha’s free-kick was headed on by Rodrygo across the face of the goal, allowing Marquinhos to tap it home at the back post. Fortuitously, Costa Rica were given a reprieve when VAR replays showed Rodrygo to be marginally offside, the tightest of calls, but one Los Ticos were immensely thankful for!

Second Half

Just before half-time, Seleção had yet another penalty call when a cross inadvertently struck Juan Pablo Vargas’s hand at close range in the box, which the ref again ignored, much to Brazil’s exasperation, as tempers began to rise.

The one-way traffic continued into the second-half, with Lucas Paqueta rattling the woodwork with a long-range effort in the 63rd minute before a venomous Guilherme Arana strike was kept out by a fine save from the courageous Sequeira. Seleçãogrew increasingly frustrated as they failed to break down a stubborn Costa Rican defense. Los Ticos coach Gustavo Alfaro made several smart substitutions throughout the half to maintain the relentless energy levels of the team and ensure the door would stay firmly shut on a disgruntled Brazil.

The final whistle was met with raucous celebrations by the Tico players and supporters alike, knowing they had just left every drop of blood and sweat on the field to achieve an unexpected draw.

Despite La Sele having just 26% ball possession and zero shots on target, this will feel like a victory, as against all odds, they managed to heroically earn a vital draw against a Brazil side ranked fifth in the world. A true tactical and defensive masterclass worthy of prime Mourinho!

Here are my players ratings:

23) Patrick Sequeira – 9.5/10

3) Jeyland Mitchell – 9.5/10

4) Juan Pablo Vargas – 9/5/10 (MOTM)

15) Francisco Calvo (C) – 9.5/10

22) Haxzel Quirós – 9.5/10

14) Orlando Galo – 9/10

13) Jefferson Brenes – 8.5/10

10) Brandon Aguilera – 9/10

11) Ariel Lassiter – 9.5/10

21) Álvaro Zamora – 8.5/10

9) Manfred Ugalde – 8.5/10

Substitutes

17) Warren Madrigal (for Manfred Ugalde 64th minute) – 8/10

16) Alejandro Bran (for Jefferson Brenes 64th minute) – 8/10

12) Joel Campbell (for Álvaro Zamora 70th minute) – 8.5/10

2) Gerald Taylor for Brandon Aguilera 90th minute) – N/A

8) Joseph Mora (for Ariel Lassiter 90th minute) – N/A

Coach

Gustavo Alfaro- 9/10

Defying the odds, Alfaro delivered a historic point for Los Ticos. He mirrored his resolute and disciplined Ecuadorian side of yesteryear in thriving in the underdog role, with an organized and shrewd formation and tactical set-up to stifle the talent-filled Brazil side. He also substituted expertly throughout to ensure La Sele were never overrun.

La Sele will now turn its attention to Friday’s fixture against Colombia, who beat Paraguay 2-1 in their opening match. Kick-off is at 3:00 pm MST at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

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