Will Brazil Find Form Versus Costa Rica?

Like many of the heavily favoured nations at this summer’s World Cup, Brazil’s campaign got off to a poor start, held to a frustrating draw with a Switzerland side who scratched and clawed their way to a point. That, along with Serbia’s victory, makes this clash with Costa Rica a must-win game for the Selecao and their Coach understands that his side must recover their concentration if they hope to enjoy tangible success in Russia.

“If we were more focused, we could have made the goalkeeper work more,” Tite said after their first game. “After the equaliser you could feel something emotionally. There was a feeling. We had to be cooler, more precise. My expectation was for a victory and, of course, I’m not happy with the result.”

He will undoubtedly be aware of Brazil’s excellent record against Costa Rica, a team they have lost to only once in ten previous meetings, their sole defeat coming way back in 1960. However, Tite may well have to go into this clash without Neymar, the PSG star struggling with an injury that may rule him out of the match at St Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium.

Fernandinho and Renato Augusto – both of whom came off the bench against Switzerland – could start in Neymar’s place with Philippe Coutinho pushed into a more advanced role, meaning that the Coach could retain his favoured 4-3-3 system. Paulinho and Thiago Silva have also missed training sessions this week, but both are expected to recover in time to take their places in the starting XI on Friday evening.

For Costa Rica – who currently sit bottom of the group as the only side with zero points – this match presents an extremely difficult challenge. Los Ticos were largely unthreatening against Serbia, Aleksandar Kolarov superb free kick continuing their dismal recent form. They have lost seven of their last nine matches and that last defeat was their third on the spin, a run which includes England’s 2-0 win in Leeds and a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Belgium.

“Whenever you play Brazil, in any circumstance, it’s always something special, it’s always something different,” Costa Rica midfielder Celso Borges told Reuters in an interview this week. “It’s the country with the most World Cups, so it’s very different, but it’s still the game, it’s still enjoyable and it’s still fun.”

Having only been fit enough for a place on the bench against Serbia, Joel Campbell appears to have shaken off his injury and is fighting for a starting berth against Brazil, with Johan Venegas widely tipped as the man to miss out. At the same time, Johnny Acosta and Francisco Calvo are likely to retain their places, with Kendall Waston and Sunderland’s Bryan Oviedo unlikely to earn a recall.

Brazil (4-3-3): Alisson; Danilo, Thiago Silva, Joao Miranda, Marcelo; Renato Augusto, Fernandinho, Paulinho; Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Coutinho

Costa Rica (3-4-3): Keylor Navas; Johnny Acosta, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Oscar Duarte; Cristian Gamboa, Celso Borges, David Guzman, Francisco Calvo; Bryan Ruiz, Marco Urena, Joel Campbell

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