Mano Menezes’ side struggled to get a single shot on target in the entirety of the first half but a strike from the highly sought after Santos sensation settled the contest
Neymar netted his eighth goal in 14 appearances for Brazil when his solitary second half effort gave the Selecao a laboured 1-0 friendly win over 10-man Costa Rica in San Jose.
With no qualifying campaign to take part in for the 2014 World Cup as the host nation, Brazil opted to begin their build-up to the finals against Central American opposition.
But it was Costa Rica who made the better start to the contest and created the first real chance after just two minutes when Heiner Mora’s floating cross found Winston Parks but the striker, right infront of goal, failed to control as the ball skidded off his shin.
Just a minute later, the action swung the other end when Neymar released Fred through on goal, but the Fluminense striker smashed his shot over the bar. For the next 15 minutes, it was the five-time world champions who dominated proceedings while the hosts threatened on occasion on the break. But apart from a few shots off target by both sides and some fancy footwork from Neymar and Ronaldinho in particular, clear-cut chances were few and far between.
Mora did have the home fans up on their feet just before the half hour when he charged towards goal before unleashing a fierce 20-yard drive which flew just wide of Julio Cesar’s right post. That proved to be the last meaningful sight on goal for the half but tempers flared when Neymar and Ronaldinho were kicked and wrestled to the ground one time too often as the first period came to a disappointing end despite a promising start.
The second half kicked off with Costa Rica again presented with an early goalscoring opportunity. Bryan Oviedo was allowed space down the left flank to run with the ball into the box, but he dragged his eventual shot across the face of goal just wide.
Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas was forced into his first real save five minutes before the hour mark but it was a routine catch from a speculative Ronaldinho effort from out wide. Despite only registering their first shot on target, Brazil took the lead against the run of play.
Dani Alves whipped in a cross which just evaded Fred and distracted Navas at his near post, allowing the ball to bounce to Neymar and the Santos star easily stabbed in his shot from close range.
The goal injected much-needed confidence into the Samba stars and they had a double chance on 72 minutes to increase their lead. First, Fred’s header from a Ronaldinho cross was clawed off the line by Navas and from the follow-up, Neymar’s thunderbolt from 25 yards cannoned off the crossbar.
Costa Rica’s hopes of a comeback were washed away when Mora was sent off in the 84th minute for a sliding tackle on Jonas on an increasing rain-soaked pitch. Despite the numerical advantage, Mano Menezes' men failed to add to the scoreline and had to settle for a marginal 1-0 win.
Brazil will face a sterner test on Wednesday when they take on 2011 Gold Cup champions Mexico in another friendly.