Brazil 1 Chile 1: Four talking points as hosts triumph on penalties
Brazil 1 Chile 1: Four talking points as the hosts reach the last eight thanks to a 4-3 penalty shootout victory
Brazil deliver on set-piece promise
Brazil manager Felipe Luiz Scolari admitted that he would have picked a different last-16 opponent if the former Chelsea manager had the power to alter the World Cup draw. The hosts outlined their plan to exploit the lack of height and pace in the Chile side – and the Selecao delivered on that promise. Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was forced to come off his line to punch away, somewhat unconvincingly, most set-piece deliveries throughout the clash. But ironically, Brazil’s opener came from one of the rare times the Chile captain did not venture into the six-yard area. Thiago Silva glanced a corner towards David Luiz, and the Paris Saint-Germain centre-half’s presence resulted in Gonzalo Jara putting the ball past Bravo. It was all going to plan for Scolari. But while Brazil were able to make the most of Chile’s deficiencies, la Roja’s strength is their pressing and willingness to fight lost causes. Brazil may have defenders with great technical ability, but collectively, Scolari’s men have been sloppy at times during the World Cup. When Marcelo and Hulk suffered a communication breakdown, it was no surprise to see Eduardo Vargas intercept a sloppy pass to tee up Alexis Sanchez, who calmly slotted a finish past Julio Cesar. It was the good and bad of Brazil.
Neymar left in Vidal and Sanchez’s shadow
With four goals in three Group A games, Neymar has coped remarkably well with the hopes of a nation resting on shoulders. The 22-year-old has been Brazil’s best creative spark in victories against Croatia and Cameroon. And in the first half, the Barcelona forward terrorised Francisco Silva as he looked to isolate the one-geared centre-half as much as possible. It resulted in a couple of chances but Brazil’s poster-boy lacked the confidence to shoot first time using his left foot. His influence waned in the second half as Chile’s main men, Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, came to the fore. The Liverpool target was a constant nuisance as he dropped deep, collected the ball before offloading to an unmarked team-mate. The Barca forward was willing to run directly at the Brazil defence, too, resulting in clumsy challenges to earn Chile a set-piece opportunities around the hosts’s area. Sanchez continued to offer a threat on the counter deep into extra time, even when most of his team-mates were falling to the ground with cramp. Bizarrely, Barcelona want to sell Sanchez, and front-runners Liverpool will certainly have more competition following his exemplary performance. Just as important to the Chile cause was Vidal. The Juventus midfielder came into the tournament with fitness concerns but he lasted 88 minutes in the Belo Horizonte heat. While the 27-year-old wasn’t as eye-catching as his Chile team-mate, the tenacious midfielder was just as effective, winning vital challenges and craftily using possession to put his side in dangerous positions. Manchester United have just signed Ander Herrera, but on this showing, Louis van Gaal may wish to delve further into the Old Trafford coffers.
Webb big calls
It was a case of dejà vu as Premier League referee Howard Webb was put in charge of this last-16 encounter after officiating Brazil’s 3-0 win against Chile in the same phase in South Africa. Generally perceived as England’s best, Webb had a testing 120 minutes. The initial flash points of the match were a series of late challenges as Brazil and Chile looked to flex their muscle in what was effectively a derby clash between the neighbours. Tasty tackles soon turned to penalty claims as Vargas tumbled after a slight nudge by David Luiz, before muscle-bound Hulk dropped to the turf after minimal contact from Mauricio Isla. Brazil had the better claim and were right to feel aggrieved as Webb waved play on. Aside from the fact that Fernandinho committed six fouls but remarkably was not among the six yellow cards issued, Webb disallowed Hulk’s second-half strike. The Zenit St Petersburg man controlled a long ball with his shoulder if you’re Brazilian and upper arm if you’re Chilean. Webb, or more accurately his assistant Mike Mullarkey, opted to go with the side in red as the goal was disallowed. Fifa have made the most of goal-line technology at this tournament, but such decisions like handball are left to referee. Brazil’s penalty triumphant renders the incident meaningless, but had Chile won the spot-kick shootout, Webb’s call would surely have been put under more scrutiny.
Brazil move on step closer…
It was Neymar, again, who proved Brazil’s saviour, although such a statement does do a disservice to Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Julio Cesar. The Brazil No1 stopped two Chile penalties before the woodwork came to his aide for Jara’s final effort. The former Inter Milan star deserves praise for his reading of the opposition’s penalties, but it was Neymar who had to shoulder the overpowering pressure as he stepped up to put the hosts at match point in the shootout. Neymar was manhandled by an aggressive Chile side and faded in the second half and extra time. The Barcelona star appeared to be struggling with various knocks picked up, whist his stuttering run up, too, didn’t appear overly convincing. But it would be wrong to doubt Brazil’s talisman, who is already proving a leader in Scolari’s camp aged just 22, if his pitchside team-talk is anything to go by. The hosts can take great satisfaction from having overcome one of their biggest obstacles in pursuit of a sixth World Cup. Next up will be Colombia or Uruguay. If it is the former, Brazil could feel the effects of 120 minutes in the glaring Belo Horizonte sun. If it is Luis Suarez-less Uruguay, you feel Brazil will have enough to get past their sulking South American rivals.