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Brazil held to 0-0 draw by Costa Rica in a stunner to open Copa America group play

AP Sports Writer

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Brazil was held to a 0-0 draw by Costa Rica on Monday night, with the international powerhouse inauspiciously failing to break through in its Copa America opener.

Although Brazil controlled play and outshot Costa Rica 18-2, the Seleção was held scoreless by a defense led by goalkeeper Patrick Sequeira, who made three saves while recording the team’s fourth consecutive clean sheet.

Brazil had an apparent goal by Marquinhos disallowed in the first half after a lengthy VAR check, but the team known for decades of sublime offensive play never got closer to a score — and never got a break on several questionable refereeing calls — in front of a lively crowd of 67,158 dominated by their yellow-clad fans at SoFi Stadium.

The result left Colombia on top of Group D after its 2-1 victory over Paraguay. Brazil has won the Copa America nine times, but its current transitional squad led by Real Madrid stars Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo got off to a discouraging start.

Brazil coach Dorival Júnior said the result wasn’t thoroughly poor, noting his team’s wide advantages in possession and chances.

“I believe that in context, it was a well-played game,” Dorival said through an interpreter. ”We passed the ball well and we created good opportunities. We weren’t happy with the finishes, I agree. But in general, I think we presented very positive things. Nowadays it will be like this. We have to find ways and solutions to score. We’re always working on it, every moment.”

The draw was a monumental achievement for Costa Rica, an undermanned CONCACAF team with the youngest roster in the tournament but a reputation for overachievement and sturdy defending led by Sequeira, who plays for Ibiza in Spain’s third division.

Costa Rica head coach Gustavo Alfaro, the Argentine veteran leading his first major tournament since his hiring last November, was pleased by his team’s tenacity.

“I hope (opponents) start looking at us with respect,” Alfaro said through an interpreter. “Everyone thought we were dead before the movie started. We are going to play all the games as if they were the final.”

Los Ticos had lost nine straight meetings with Brazil, but Alfaro’s young group capably handled a night that could have left them starstruck.

“All this is a nice reward for these kids,” Alfaro said. “When Vini greeted them, it meant a lot to them. He is someone who plays at the highest level, and for us who are starting out, it was a very big test.”

Brazil controlled from the start with 75% possession in the first half, but couldn’t break through.

Vinícius was taken down in the box in the 22nd minute by a big hit from Haxzel Quirós, but got no whistle.

In the 30th minute, Rodrygo went low to head on Raphinha’s free kick to Marquinhos, who banged it home at the far post. A 3 1/2-minute VAR review followed, and Mexican referee César Ramos eventually agreed with the assistant’s decision to wave it off for offside by a minuscule margin.

In the 39th minute, a kick by Lucas Paquetá appeared to go off the hand of Juan Pablo Vargas in the penalty area, but Ramos made no call.

Paquetá ripped a shot off the post in the 63rd minute. Costa Rica then survived when Quirós nearly headed the ball into his own net before Sequeira smothered it. Sequeira then made a diving save in the 79th minute when Guilherme Arana ripped a shot on net.

Costa Rica survived a few more moments of chaos beginning in the 86th minute, with Rodrygo failing to capitalize on a pair of scoring chances and not getting a foul call against Jeyland Mitchell in the box.

Bruno Guimarães then had a clean look at the net in the first minute of injury time, but pushed it just wide.

Dorival said he wants to see more “dirty movement” in Brazil’s next match.

“We need to make life easier for whoever has the ball at their feet,” the coach said.

Brazil’s national team is in a transitional period — particularly without Neymar, who hasn’t played since tearing a knee ligament in a match for Brazil last October. Neymar spoke to team Sunday before watching the match at SoFi Stadium, where he got massive cheers in the second half when his worried face appeared on the scoreboard.


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