Brazil and Swizerland made tremendous come-backs to emerge victorious against Costa Rica and Serbia respectively, while Nigeria beat Iceland 2-0.
Brazil ended the match with 23 attempts on the Costa Rican goal, clearly dominating to finish the game with a 2-0 win at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.
The South American teams going head to head meant there was an understanding on how they dealt with each other’s strong points, as Brazil quickly began to dominate with its attacking force and Costa Rica resisting with a solid defense.
The scoreboard was not affected by the Brazilian attacking force throughout the full 90 minutes with Costa Rica barely able to keep the ball past the half line point of the pitch.
Brazil was able to keep its fans’ dreams alive when Philippe Coutinho opened the scoreboard in the 91st minute of stoppage time to give his team the lead in front of 64,468 attendees in the stadium.
Shortly after in the 97th minute the team star Neymar sidefoot the ball in the back of the net to double the lead for Brazil and surpass Brazilian hero Romario with 56 goals for Brazil.
Costa Rica is officially no longer competing to qualify for the round 16 of the World Cup, and Brazil goes to lead Group E with more confidence to qualify.
Coutinho, in a post-game news conference, said “the first half we were playing to shoot from outside the penalty area, and in the second half we changed the tactics to go in the area.” The substitute in the second half, Douglas Costa said “to play at this high level at the World Cup, it is always difficult, we could have scored in the 90 minutes.” Brazilian Captain Thiago Silva came out to say “We hope we saw the real Brazil today, we didn’t have much space to move within, Costa Rica defenders played a very well game, and we played better in the next half to win the game.” Meanwhile, Switzerland came from one goal behind to win a thrilling clash against Serbia 2-1, keeping chances to advance to round of 16 alive.
Man of the match, Xherdan Shaqiri scored the winning goal at the 90 minute mark.
The match began with the Serbs in control and indeed Dusan Tadic’s cross found Aleksandar Mitrovic whose header converted the ball in the 5th minute into the roof of the net.
The Swiss force an attack but the Serbian defense sent the ball to a corner kick in 29th minute.
A free kick for the Swiss from the left of the box for Serbia in 36th minute failed to result in any positive outcome.
Switzerland entered the second half with more determination to put more efforts on the pitch.
Only seven minutes into the second half, Granit Xhaka received a rebound and fired an rocket that blasted to the left side of the Serbian keeper and leveled the score 1-1.
The Swiss were in more possession of the ball, frustrating the Serbs and controlling the pace in midfield.
Shaqiri was on side when he received a pass from the Swiss defense, and he dribbled the ball directly to the goal despite a challenge by the Serbian defender, put it calmbly to the left of the Serbian goalkeeper in the 90th minute, turning the table over the Serbians and sent them to third place in the table.
Shaqiri made a statement after the game and said Serbia “were 1-0 up, and yet we rallied. These players play in top flight clubs all over Europe. They kept their cool. We turned the match around and that’s something we wouldn’t have achieved a couple of years ago.” Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic said they had a “roller-coaster ride.
“Personally after the first goal, I was euphoric – it was an excellent way to score it. After the first half nobody would have believed that we could turn it around,” he said.
During half time, he said, “we had to focus on the positive approach … I told them that I would not be content with a draw and that we needed to work on our strategy and I felt that it was important to see whether we could make a difference.
“What is important is we have developed a winning mentality. Even if we are down we try to be positive and win each game. This has been displayed in our earlier matches, even against Brazil. We always find a reaction and this is a positive characteristic of our team,” said Petkovic.
Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic was disturbed by the defeat.
“We were equal to them, maybe they had more possession, but at 1-1 we tried to go on the attack. We substituted a defensive midfielder for an attacking midfielder but unfortunately we conceded in the 90th minute on the break … We did not convert some of our chances … ,” he said.
Krstajic said Serbia needed to win against Brazil in the final match of group stages. “We will focus and do whatever we can to try to win. Nothing is impossible in life.” On the other hand, Nigeria scored two goals against Iceland to win and gain three points putting them in the second position of Group D.
The first half ends with Nigeria managing to apply pressure to the Icelandic defense, but Iceland were making the most out of the chances they created with five attempts compared to Nigeria with no shots on goal.
Nigeria comes out in the second half strong and immediately made up for the lack of attempts in the first half.
In Nigeria’s second attempt at the goal, Ahmed Musa scored the opener after a swift counter-attack in the 49th minute, giving his team the lead.
Fifteen minutes before the end of the match, Nigeria presses forward as Musa with a solo effort goes for his second goal of the game sweeping past the Icelandic defenders and goalkeeper to extend the lead in the 75th minute.
A penalty was granted for the Icelandic team after an on-pitch VAR review in the 81st minute, which was taken by Gylfi Sigurdsson but sent the ball over the post.
Iceland’s manager Heimir Hallgrimsson said after the match “Nigeria played very well, it was difficult in the fight today, I admit we have played better games than this game today.” Hallgrimsson added, “It’s a strange fact that we are still in the race. We didn’t think we would go through this World Cup without a loss, and losses are always difficult to swallow. But we only need to beat Croatia, which is possibly easier to say than do.” Nigeria’s team manager Gernot Rohr said he was pleased with change of strategy.
“The strategy today you saw, we changed our organisation, we played in 3-5-2, and Victor Moses played in the same position he played in Chelsea before. In the second half, we had more space, and the speed of Ahmed Musa for example for us was very interesting.” Gernot added, “In the second half it was a different team, they realised in halftime we needed to do much more, we played against a very good team from Iceland.” Answering a question about his team and the next match against Argentina, Gernot said, “What I like in my young team is humility, solidarity and fighting spirit. I thought before this World Cup we were here to learn. I think this team will be ready in 2022 and this World Cup is coming early, but we have a good chance to win against Argentina.” Group D’s final standing will be a tough one to predict, with Nigeria secured with three points for now, while Iceland and Argentina still have one more game to prove themselves, as Croatia is already qualified after last night’s victory.
Source: Kuwait News Agency