Brazil keep perfect group record intact, eliminate Costa Rica
Brazil coasted through their final group stage game against Costa Rica, a dull 1-0 victory thanks to a late goal from Raquel Fernandes in Moncton on Wednesday night.
It was meaningless game for the South Americans, who had already locked up the top spot in the group, and they played like it, doing just enough to maintain the veneer that the game actually mattered. The result, however, condemned Costa Rica to the drop, allowing Sweden and Korea Republic to advance.
Brazil had punched their ticket in the second game of group play and already knew they were set to face Australia at this same locale on Sunday. They shuffled their lineup, adding six new faces, and simply played keep-away from long stretches of the match. Dinnia Diaz was kept mildly busy, but you got the sense that Brazil (quite sensibly) were unwilling to fling themselves into challenges or 50-50 balls; if they nicked a goal or two that would be perfectly fine.
Las Ticas' problem was that they could not hold the ball or string together any passes. (In fact, Opta data showed that their passing in the first half was the worst of any single team at this Cup to date). Part of the problem was that every time they got the ball, a woman in a yellow shirt took it away from them. Another issue was their own ineptitude with it, as they constantly booted the ball out of play in needless fashion.
After a lazy start, Maurine and Monika Hickmann nearly combined to break the deadlock in the 20th minute, but Hickmann's header flew wide. Gabriela had the ball in the net but the flag went up on her, and while it was a debatable call, she did not protest too much. Darlene would have two fine back to back chances and the Brazilians simply started chipping Costa Rica's static backline, but the first was hit right to Diaz, and the second could not find the far post.
When the Central Americans had chances, they scuffed them. Shirley Cruz, in a rare display of competence, fed Raquel Rodriguez a fine cross that was begging to be stuffed into the back of the net. Instead, she headed it tamely to Luciana. Katherine Alvarado noticed this and opted for the direct route on a free kick late in the first half, and smacked it, well, right to Luciana again.
Having watched the first half, you could have skipped the second; you had seen all there was to see. Brazil passed the ball about and Costa Rica did not. Substitue Beatriz was sprung on the hour mark and forced Diaz to make the stop, but Brazil's desire to kill time over all was showcased on the ensuing corner kick. Instead of whipping the ball in or even playing it short, the ball was kicked back all the way to the halfway line. Diaz was forced to stop Rosana point-blank about ten minutes after that, but that's about all the excitement there was.
Raquel finally nicked that goal on a straight run at the defense off another clipped ball over the backline. With Diaz helpless, she just slipped it to the far post. Melissa Herrera gave Las Ticas a glimmer of hope with a minute remaining when she raced in, but Andressa was able to beat her to the ball, and with that, the game was gone.