Once again for Brazil fans, all the focus in the build-up to a match has been on the world’s most expensive player Neymar, who is a doubt Friday’s Group E clash with Costa Rica.
It is understood that the Paris Saint-Germain forward is still struggling with the after-effects of an ankle injury suffered in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Switzerland, in which he was fouled a record-breaking 10 times.
Neymar did take part in training on Wednesday ahead of the clash in Saint-Petersburg but it remains to be seen whether Brazil will take a chance on him in their second group game.
Four years ago, Neymar not being able to play for Brazil would have been a disaster but they have learned to win without him under Tite and will have no issues getting the better of Costa Rica whether he features or not. You might even argue they are better off without the former Barcelona forward, who took all the pace out of Brazil’s game when on the ball against Switzerland.
The Selecao were expected to be the great entertainers of this World Cup having finished top-scorers in qualifying but, after starting well, they hardly looked dangerous in the draw with the Swiss.
They should rectify their lack of goals against Los Ticos, though, with seven of the 10 meetings between the two nations featuring over 2.5 goals.
Of those 10 encounters Brazil have won nine, including both games staged at a World Cup, the most recent of which finished 5-2 in 2002. It is therefore no surprise to see the South Americans priced at 1/5 to win the game, with a Costa Rica upset 16/1.
The fact Costa Rica only have kept one clean sheet in their last five matches should only boost the confidence of the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho.
Manchester City striker Jesus was top-scorer for Brazil in qualifying and he could be one those who benefits from not having Neymar in the team as he seeks to make the No.9 shirt his own.
A win for both sides is a must with Brazil facing current Group E leaders Serbia in their last clash, while another defeat for Costa Rica will spell the end of their World Cup having been beaten 1-0 by the Serbs at the weekend.
The Central American side’s run to the quarter-finals in 2014 seems like a distant memory at this moment and with two wins in the last 11, this is a team destined for an early exit from Russia.
For 4/1 tournament favourites Brazil, Friday’s game is a chance to show the Switzerland match was a false start and lay down a marker, something all the big sides at this World Cup have so far failed to accomplish.
For all new customers, ComeOn are currently offering a £10 free bet – make sure you sign up!