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Brazil v Costa Rica: Neymar and Navas hold the key

Nick Murphy | 22 June 2018

Main talking points ahead of the match

Thursday’s World Cup action kicks-off with an intriguing match-up in Group E as Brazil take on Costa Rica in the Krestovsky Stadium.

Tite’s men could only draw in their opening match against Switzerland. Their opponents in Saint Petersburg find themselves at the bottom of the group after losing 1-0 to Serbia in their opener.

It’s all set-up for a to-and-fro encounter in Western Russia. And the Coral News Team have picked apart the key threads ahead of the match…

Will Neymar be back in time? 

Neymar’s fitness is the one big question mark hanging over this fixture. The Paris Saint-Germain star was fouled 10 times by the Swiss in the opener and has been forced to miss training in the build-up to this fixture with an ankle problem.

The 26-year-old didn’t look right in Rostov-on-Don on his return to competitive action following a broken foot in February. An ankle niggle won’t help his or Brazil’s confidence. It’s touch-and-go whether the talismanic star will feature against Costa Rica on Thursday.

Brazil a one-man team?

Brazil are experiencing the same problem as Argentina and to a lesser extent, Portugal. When your star man doesn’t fire, what do you do? The Samba Boys attempted to put all of their play through Neymar in the Group E opener and looked listless when it didn’t work.

Luckily, Philippe Coutinho was on hand to get them out of a hole against Switzerland. But that sort of magic can’t be relied upon in every match. The five-time winners need to spread the play better and make the most of their incredible attacking talents against Costa Rica, regardless of whether Neymar is available or not.

Set-pieces matter for Costa Rica

This Costa Rica side does not carry the same swagger and confidence as the one that reached the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago. So they need to make the most of their own qualities and their opponent’s deficiencies.

Brazil showed in their opener that they’re vulnerable against set-pieces. Steven Zuber’s goal came as a result of poor marking from a Switzerland corner.

The height of Oscar Duarte, Celso Borges, Johan Venegas and Giancarlo Gonzalez could prove crucial for Oscar Ramirez’s men.

Los Ticos can handle South American sides

It may just be a statistical quirk, but Costa Rica tend to perform better against South American sides. Los Ticos have lost just once in their last five meetings with CONMEBOL nations dating back to 2015.

They’ve beaten Uruguay and Colombia in that time. And although they lost to Brazil during most recent head-to-head in 2015, it’s something that could give them confidence going into this Group E clash.

Navas v Brazil

When all is said and done, the outcome of this match could come down to the performance of Keylor Navas.

The Real Madrid stopper is by far and away Costa Rica’s best player. He’ll need to be at his best once again in Saint Petersburg to deny one of the best forward lines in the tournament.

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