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story.lead_photo.caption Costa Rica’s Christian Bolanos (right) challenges for the ball with Brazil’s Douglas Costa in Brazil’s 2-0 victory Friday. The victory allows Brazil to advance into the knockout stage of the World Cup.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- After more than 90 minutes of aggravation and exasperation, Neymar and Brazil finally broke through Costa Rica's smothering defense.

Philippe Coutinho scored in the first minute of stoppage time, and Neymar followed six minutes later to give Brazil a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday at the World Cup.

Unlike Argentina and Lionel Messi, Brazil is still in a good position to advance to the round of 16. Costa Rica has been eliminated.

"The responsibility is huge when you are playing for the national team," Coutinho said. "You have to be mentally strong from the beginning until the end. We fought until the end and we were rewarded."

Neymar dropped to his knees after the final whistle, sobbing in his hands as his teammates surrounded him and then lifted him off the ground.

"We know he had a difficult injury, he went through a very bad patch," Coutinho said through a translator, referring to Neymar breaking a bone in his right foot four months ago. "But his joy at being on the pitch is contagious."

A few minutes before the end, Neymar flopped backward to initially earn a penalty, but the contact was so exaggerated that the referee reversed the call after using video review. Neymar then angrily punched the ball a short time later as Costa Rica's players tried to waste time. It earned Brazil's biggest star a yellow card.

"The joy, the satisfaction and the pride of representing the national team is a lot," Brazil Coach Tite said, defending Neymar. "He has the responsibility, the pressure. Everyone shows it in their own way."

Neymar seemed panicked for most of the second half as his shots sailed over the bar or simply missed the mark, and he complained over nearly every call. In danger of ending in a draw, Brazil seemed nervous but composed itself through the seven minutes of injury time.

Coutinho was first to get the ball past goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Rising superbly to meet a header from Marcelo's cross, Roberto Firmino nodded the ball down to striker Gabriel Jesus, who then flicked it to a sprinting Coutinho in the penalty area.

In the seventh minute of injury time, Douglas Costa whipped in a cross from the right and Neymar deftly tapped it into the net.

Both Firmino and Costa had come on as substitutes in the second half.

"I think Brazil's changes made an impact," Costa Rica Coach Oscar Ramirez said. "It became very difficult for us."

Brazil has four points in Group E and plays Serbia in its final match in Moscow on Wednesday. Costa Rica has zero points and cannot advance.

SWITZERLAND 2, SERBIA 1

KALININGRAD, Russia -- Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri scored in Switzerland's victory over Serbia, and both celebrated by making a nationalist symbol to their ethnic Albanian heritage.

In the tournament's first come-from-behind victory, Xhaka made it 1-1 in the 52nd minute with a powerful shot through a crowded penalty. Shaqiri added the other in injury time after running past the Serbian defense.

Both put their open hands together with their thumbs locked and fingers outstretched to make what looks like the double-headed eagle displayed on Albania's national flag. The thumbs represent the heads of the two eagles, while the fingers look like the feathers.

The gesture is likely to inflame tensions among Serb nationalists and ethnic Albanians.

Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn't recognize Kosovo's independence and relations between the two countries remain tense. Xhaka's parents are originally from Kosovo and they are of Albanian heritage.

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored for Serbia with a header in the fifth minute.

The win puts Switzerland into second place in Group E with four points, the same as Brazil. The Swiss will advance to the round of 16 if they beat Costa Rica on Wednesday in Nizhny Novgorod. Serbia will face Brazil in Moscow at the same time.

NIGERIA 2, ICELAND 0

VOLGOGRAD, Russia -- Ahmed Musa gave Nigeria its first victory at this year's World Cup, and gave Argentina a gift.

Musa scored two second-half goals to help the Nigerians beat Iceland and move into second place in the group behind already-qualified Croatia.

Nigeria will face Argentina in its final group match on Tuesday in St. Petersburg. If Nigeria wins, it will advance to the round of 16. But if Argentina claims all three points, it can still advance depending on the result of the other match between Croatia and Iceland.

Musa, Nigeria's all-time leading World Cup scorer with four goals, gave his country the lead in the 49th minute after Victor Moses sprinted deep into the Iceland half and curled a cross to the near post. Musa deftly controlled the ball before slamming it past Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson on the half-volley.

Nigeria nearly doubled its lead on several occasions, but Musa made it happen in the 75th minute. He picked up the ball on the left side of the Iceland penalty area, mazed his way past Halldorsson and picked his spot in the Iceland goal.

Iceland had a chance to get one back but Gylfi Sigurdsson sent a penalty kick way over the Nigeria bar in the 83rd minute. The penalty was awarded after a video review showed that Alfred Finnbogason had been brought down by Tyronne Ebuehi.

Sports on 06/23/2018

Print Headline: Neymar, Brazil win late vs. Costa Rica

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