domingo, 29 de junho de 2014
Brazil beat Chile on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals
Chile had given everything but, ultimately, it all came back to that moment, at 2-2 in the penalty shootout, with one player left on each team. Neymar, superstar, kissed the ball, shuffled his feet and put his shot in the corner. Gonzalo Jara hit the post and Brazil, finally, could breathe.
They had made it difficult for themselves after taking the lead courtesy of Jara’s own goal, which was credited to David Luiz, in the first half and the referee, Howard Webb, might have needed a wig to leave the country if Chile had been more accurate from 12 yards. Webb, from a poor vantage point, denied Brazil an early penalty when Hulk went down under Mauricio Isla’s challenge and, more controversially, disallowed a second-half goal from the same player. It was not a controversy that would have stayed with him like the 2010 final. There would, nonetheless, have been significant fallout if Brazil had gone on to lose.
Instead, Júlio César saved Chile’s first two penalties, from the substitute Mauricio Pinilla and Alexis Sánchez, scorer of their goal. David Luiz went first for Brazil but Willian put the next one wide and the Chile goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, kept out Hulk after Marcelo had scored with their third attempt. Fortunately for Brazil, Neymar has played throughout this entire tournament as if immune to the considerable pressures on his slender shoulders. “He is 22,” Luiz Felipe Scolari, said. “But he plays with the experience you would expect of someone of 35.”
What a moment this was as well for Júlio César bearing in mind it was his mistake that led to Brazil’s elimination in 2010. The goalkeeper had been in tears before the first penalty had been kicked. “I couldn’t hold it in,” he said. “So many of my team-mates came to me to say beautiful things. I just hope next time we don’t need a penalty shootout, for the sake of our families, and not wanting anyone to suffer a heart attack.”
Chile left with dignity and will always reflect on that moment, in the final minute of extra time, when Sánchez played in Pinilla and his shot cannoned back off the crossbar. A touch more composure at that point and Brazil would have been plunged into a grieving process rather than looking forward to a last-eight tie in Fortaleza on Friday.
Scolari’s team are not flawless and Chile showed what can happen by pressing high up the pitch, quick to the ball and strong in the tackle. “I told them to fight and to defy history,” their coach, Jorge Sampaoli, said.
Yet nobody should underestimate Brazil’s competitive courage either. It begins with the Hino Nacional Brasileiro and the way that the people here don’t appear to think the national anthem should be sung when the alternative is to bellow the words, heads back, faster and faster, louder and louder. David Luiz, eyes boggling, veins popping, looked like he might actually start head-banging at one point and, brilliantly, the mascots were not holding back either. Chile’s national anthem had been stirring. Brazil’s made you wonder if this was a Rage Against the Machine cover version.
The volume barely dropped from that point and it quickly became apparent that a crowd of great vibrancy and colour – one-tenth rhubarb, nine-tenths custard – would have an occasion to match the noise. This was not a game when the Mexican wave was needed. There was too much on the pitch to hold everyone’s attention. Neymar – elusive, quick of feet and mind – seemed to be involved in everything, despite taking a hefty blow from Gary Medel’s early challenge. Scolari thought it was a deliberate attempt to nobble his best player. Medel, presumably, would call it a personal introduction.
Brazil were the first team to settle and took the lead after 18 minutes. Thiago Silva was the first player to read the trajectory of Neymar’s corner, heading it on to the back post where Jara had made the crucial error of taking a step out. David Luiz was behind him and Jara, in his haste to correct his mistake, jutted out his right leg to try to block the danger, succeeding only in turning the ball into the net.
Brazil, however, will always be liable to moments of carelessness and Sánchez’s equaliser also gave the game a clear sense that the host nation might be vulnerable. Marcelo, taking a routine throw-in from the left-back position, simply wanted the ball played back to him. Hulk’s touch was short and Eduardo Vargas nipped in to turn the ball across the penalty area. Sánchez took a touch to steady himself and the Barcelona player is too talented to pass up that kind of gift.
After that, it was great entertainment in the relentless sunshine and din. Júlio César’s heroics started in the second half when he kept out Charles Aránguiz with a reflex save and, at the other end, Bravo made a series of stops to keep out Neymar and Hulk.
Hulk could easily have become the villain for Brazil, with a missed penalty and his role in what Scolari described as an “unacceptable” Chile goal. Alternatively, he could have been the hero. Ten minutes into the second half, Marcelo lifted a long, diagonal pass over the Chile defence and Hulk controlled the ball at the corner of his chest and shoulder, then bundled it into the goal. His arms were raised as he cushioned down the ball and perhaps that swayed Webb’s mind in blowing his whistle for handball, but he certainly should not have booked Hulk. The outrage was loud and genuine but, by the end, it was largely forgotten and Scolari restricted himself to a few words on the subject. “Things are starting to get weird here,” the manager said.
Marcadores: "Brazil beat Chile on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals", Daniel Taylor, The Guardian