Brazil scores early, beat Costa Rica 1-0
HARRISON, N.J. (AP) Hulk scored in the 10th minute after an early stretch of Brazilian dominance and the five-time world champion beat Costa Rica 1-0 on Saturday in a World Cup qualifying tuneup match.
Despite Costa Rica employing five defenders, Brazil clearly had the better of play throughout, with the Ticos only occasionally managing to get forward on counters.
''It's normal after a long time off,'' Brazilian manager Carlos Dunga said through a translator. ''You can't have a perfect game. Lot of things we practiced in training came out well and we can do them even better. I liked how this team performed.
''We created a lot of chances. We would have liked to score more goals, but a lot of times in soccer, one is enough. It's still three points.''
Brazil used a somewhat experimental lineup with Hulk as the lead striker. Manager Dunga stayed with his starters until the middle of the second half. He used six substitutes, sending in Orlando City forward Kaka in the 67th and Neymar in the 82nd, both to large ovations from the crowd of 19,146 at Red Bull Arena.
Neymar only last week returned to Barcelona's lineup after a case of the mumps and reportedly limped out of training Thursday after grabbing his knee.
Brazil took the lead when Hulk and Costa Rican defender Giancarlo Gonzalez raced to get to a ball from Danilo out of the back. Gonzalez overran the ball and slipped as Hulk lost his footing and fell. Hulk recovered first and put a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton.
Brazil dominated from the opening kickoff, generating two chances in the first five minutes that Pemberton needed dramatic efforts to save.
He tipped Hulk's free kick from 30 yards over the bar and less than a minute later knocked down David Luiz's shot at the right post that he scrambled to cover.
Brazil outshot Costa Rica 16-1, keeping the Ticos without a shot on goal throughout. Costa Rica's best chance came in the 55th, but Bryan Ruiz's goal was ruled offside.
Still, Costa Rica manager Oscar Ramirez seemed content.
''We still need confidence, but it's places we can work on for (qualifying),'' he said through a translator. I'm very happy. It's a good group. One of our main objectives is to have the personality to make such a good team (like Brazil) suffer and take them places that were good for us.
''Considering the level of CONCACAF, the U.S. and Mexico, we tried to do what they have done for years, to look for games at this level to give us a personality aspect that we're able to play diverse games like World Cup qualifying.''
Brazil will face the United States on Tuesday in Foxborough, Massachusetts, as part of its two-game friendly American tour, while Costa Rica will return to San Jose to face Uruguay, also on Tuesday.
Dunga did not say whether Neymar will get more playing time against the United States, but seemed to indicate that he would still be used sparingly.
''It was good. All the players that started did well. Rafinha did well. Kaka did well. Danilo. But we can get better. It's normal after four days of training they don't do everything right. Overall it was a good performance.
''We have to think of qualifying. We have to give opportunities to the other players and look for other aspects of the training. We have to prepare for the next games of qualifying in the future.''