Costa Rica holds on for draw against Brazil in Copa America opener


Haxzel Quiros of Costa Rica
Haxzel Quiros of Costa Rica challenges for the ball with Vinicius Junior of Brazil during the CONMEBOL Copa America 2024 Group D match between Brazil and Costa Rica at SoFi Stadium on June 24, 2024 in Inglewood, California.

During Sunday’s pregame news conference, Costa Rica men’s national team soccer coach Gustavo Alfaro placed all the pressure on Brazil.

“They’re under pressure because even before they start playing (the tournament), they have to get to the final,” he said through translation.

Such is the life when you play for the Brazilian national team, expectations are high and sometimes off the charts.

Legendary midfielder Ronaldinho, who won the Copa America tournament twice (1999 and 2002), called this collection “one of the worst teams in recent years.”

The talent was on display in Brazil’s Group D opener on Monday night at SoFi Stadium, and Ronaldinho probably wouldn’t be happy if he was watching.

Brazil delighted the predominantly pro-Brazil crowd, but was never able to breakthrough on the scoreboard or find a late winning goal for an important three points, as the teams settled for a scoreless draw in front of 67,158.

“This result does not change where we are in this process,” Alfaro said after the game. “I’m trying to find answers in this tournament. The answers may be found in the responses of the player in this situation. Hopefully, they (the opposition) will start looking at Costa Rica with respect because they will fight until the end.”

The first half, Brazil dominated possession, had one goal disallowed due to video review, eventually sending the game into halftime scoreless.

Lucas Paqueta nearly found the opener for Brazil in the 63rd minute, but his shot hit the post.

Costa Rica did more defending than attacking and didn’t record its first shot until the 68th minute.

In the 72nd minute, Brazil nearly caught a break as Costa Rican defender Haxzel Quirós nearly put one in his own goal, but goalkeeper Patrick Sequeira was alert, keeping the ball out.

Nearly 10 minutes later, Sequeira was again pressed into action making another game-saving save.

“If Brazil wanted to play on the inside, it was because they wanted 1-v-1 on the flanks, so we had to close spaces in the midfield,” Alfaro said. “I think it was a good job by the defenders and the midfield, to limit the chances that Brazil did have.

“We had interpreted how to make Brazil back down. Today, this was a test. On the pitch, we had to do everything possible to measure up. It’s not Brazil is retreating, they lead four men high to attack vertically. I was telling the players, this challenge should help us grow and in the future, we will come across Brazil in a different tournament and if we capitalize on this, we will be able to improve.”

Costa Rica finished with just two shots, while Brazil had 19, but only three on goal.

“We were not able to achieve the finishing (goal-scoring),” Brazil coach Dorival Júnior said. “I think it was a well-contested match, unfortunately, we had some difficulties. We created great opportunities. … We have to find solutions and our worked with be directed in that sense.”

Brazil, ranked fourth in the FIFA rankings, has won the long-running tournament nine times, most recently in 2019. While Brazil is third with the most wins, it is second with the most runner-up finishes (12).

Costa Rica is one of six nations from CONCACAF competing in this year’s field, along with the United States, Mexico, Canada, Jamaica and Panama.

The draw gives Costa Rica a path out of the group. The Ticos will face Colombia on Friday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and will conclude group play against Paraguay (July 2). Brazil will face Paraguay on Friday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and then concludes group stage play against Colombia (July 2).

In Monday’s other Group B game, Colombia defeated Paraguay, 2-1, ending the day in first.

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