There will be no margin of error this time around for Brazil when the five-time world champion, led by Thiago Silva, face last edition’s quarter-finalist Costa Rica in a vital 2018 Fifa World Cup Group E tie at Saint Petersburg Stadium Friday.
Both Brazil and Costa Rica failed to get off to a good start in this tournament. It was a contrasting scenario back in 2014 where the host nation crashed out in the semi-final after a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of eventual champion Germany while Costa Rica marked their greatest ever run in the history of the greatest show on earth by beating Uruguay and Italy on their way to the last eight.
This time, Los Ticos were denied a draw after a sensational free-kick from Serbian captain Aleksandar Kolarov in the group opener. With that said, this is a good chance for them to make a good impact against Brazil as the five-time winner are not in good form.
On the other hand, Brazil, who had a half-fit Neymar on the field against Switzerland, failed to spark as a team in Rostov-on-Don. A wonderful trademark goal from Philippe Coutinho gave the Brazilians the lead but it was later neutralised by Swiss winger Steven Zuber.
Brazil in the process conceded in their sixth consecutive World Cup game, having last kept a clean sheet in their second match of the 2014 edition, a 0-0 draw against Mexico. They have equaled their worst ever run, with the previous instances taking place from 1934-38 and 1998-2002.
However, the good thing for Brazil is that Neymar joined training Wednesday and was seen in a light mood, making fun with teammates at the Saint Petersburg pitch. Adding to that, Brazil coach Tite said he is fit enough to play the next game, against the Ticos. He also expects more accuracy from his forwards as last time they were able to register only four on targets from 20 attempts.
"We have to be more effective and convert scoring opportunities in goals. On defence, we did a good job to control their variables. We didn't allow that many chances,” said Tite in front of a jam-packed media.
Tite vowed to play the same team against Costa Rica. They were seen training among themselves Thursday and later, Silva, who is going to replace Marcelo as captain Friday, appeared in the pre-match press conference.
Focus. pic.twitter.com/wrvGCQPRSB— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) June 20, 2018
"The team (are) very conscious of what we need. We haven't had the best start, but we want to rectify this. There's pressure for both sides, and we are used to this," said Silva.
"We have the urgency, but we can't play in a messy way. We have a plan and need to follow that. It will be another tough match. So, we need to be calm to bring the three points," said Silva while discussing his side's preparations.
The conditions in Saint Petersburg have been a bit odd in the last few days in that the city is experiencing less than two hours of darkness everyday due to white nights. And Wednesday was the longest day in recent times with almost 24-hour daylight.
“Yes, it is hard because we are not used to it. The coach has talked to each of us specifically and at 1:30am we have to turn off our iPads and cellphones, otherwise we (won’t be able to) sleep,” said Silva.
Statistically, it will be almost mission impossible for Costa Rica to cause an upset as no Concacaf team have ever beaten Brazil in the World Cup. Mexico’s goalless draw in 2014 was the biggest result achieved by a Concacaf side. In the last two occasions, in 1990 and 2002, Los Ticos were victims of the famous Joga Bonito. So, can Costa Rica do it this time around?