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Brazilians heave sigh of relief with World Cup win
Brazil vs. Costa Rica
Brazilians heave sigh of relief with World Cup win - photo by ASSCOCIATED PRESS

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilians breathed a sigh of relief Friday after the national team scored two stoppage time goals to beat Costa Rica 2-0 at the World Cup, bringing it closer to a berth in the round of 16.

With yellow-and-green T-shirts and Brazilian flags draped over their shoulders, thousands of people across Latin America's biggest country gathered in bars, restaurants, coffee shops and public squares to watch the game on large TV screens.

They went wild when Philippe Coutinho and Neymar scored Brazil's two goals with only a few minutes left in the game.

The narrow streets, homes and storefronts of Rio's Alemao complex of slums, one of the city's largest, were decorated with Brazilian flags and small yellow and green banners.

Sipping beer with a group of friends and residents at one bar, Daisy Gouveia shouted and cheered when Brazil scores its first goal.

"My heart was beating very quickly during the first half," Gouveia, who is studying for her high school diploma, said. "But in the second half Brazil started playing well and went on to score."

At the same bar, motorbike taxi driver Marcio de Souza said he was elated with the result.

"The match was wonderful. The Costa Ricans blocked us for a while but Brazil was better and clinched the victory, bringing happiness to all Brazilians."

Nearby, a group of friends gathered around a table in front of a flag-decorated house where coffee and cake was being served as they watched the match. For a while several of them complained that Brazil wasn't playing well, but when the first goal was scored the hope of being world champions emerged in their enthusiastic shouts and cheers.

"It is difficult to say who will win the World Cup," slum resident Leandro de Castro said. "The other teams are also very good, so it will be difficult. But I think we can get there and win the World Cup."


Nigeria 2, Iceland 0


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

Musa scored two second-half goals to help the Nigerians beat Iceland 2-0 Friday 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, has played well against Argentina before. His two previous goals came at the 2014 tournament in Brazil in a group match against the two-time champions.

"It's possible I'm going to score another two goals," the 25-year-old Musa said.

On Friday, Musa gave Nigeria 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.

"I think the control made it more perfect for me," said Musa, who hinted he wants to leave Premier League club Leicester and play for CSKA Moscow.

Iceland, the smallest nation ever to compete in the World Cup, was not as effective as it had been against Argentina when it earned a surprise 1-1 draw.

Still, the European champion quarterfinalists had a chance to get one back but Gylfi Sigurdsson sent a penalty kick 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.


Switzerland 2, Serbia 1


KALININGRAD, Russia — Albania's national flag was at the center of Switzerland's 2-1 victory over Serbia on Friday at the World Cup.

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage.

Both players 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 flag. The thumbs represent the heads of the two eagles, while the fingers look like the feathers.

"I think about this, I don't want to speak," said Shaqiri, who also took off his shirt after scoring. "In football, you have always emotions. You can see what I did, and it's just emotion, and I'm just happy to have scored the goal. I did it, and we don't have to speak about this."

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. His brother plays for Albania's national team.

Years of war in Balkans sent many families to western European countries, including Switzerland. The Swiss have dozens of ethnic Albanians in their national soccer program.

Serbia's players did not react to the eagle gestures at Kaliningrad Stadium.

"I don't have any comments," Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic said. "I don't deal with these things. I am a man of sports, and this is what I'm going to stay being."

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 area. Shaqiri added the other in injury time after running past the Serbian defense.

Their celebrations were emotional and could overshadow Switzerland's victory.

"You should never mix politics and football. You should always show respect," Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic said. "It's a wonderful atmosphere and a positive experience and that's what football should be about."

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.

Serbia had chances to score more before halftime. Mitrovic came close in the 19th minute when he controlled a cross from Branislav Ivanovic on his chest and sent a bicycle kick over the bar.

GROUP DYNAMICS: Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia could all still claim first place in the group with a win on Wednesday. Costa Rica has been eliminated.

KEY TO SUCCESS: Shaqiri's runs down the wings were a constant threat to Serbia's defense, while the Swiss midfield recovered after a shaky start to dominate in the same way it did against Brazil in their first match.

Mitrovic was a handful for Switzerland with his strong physical presence close to the goal. The Swiss decision to put two defenders on him paid off in the second half, though Serbia had a strong appeal for a penalty when two defenders appeared to wrestle Mitrovic to the ground as he tried to head a cross.