Brazil may be through but Luis Felipe Scolari will be extremely worried about his team’s form. They came up against a fired-up Chile who could have easily dumped the hosts out of the tournament had Mauricio Pinilla’s effort had been a few inches lower.
It was a magnificent effort by Chile but they will look back on this game as an opportunity lost.
Brazil cannot celebrate too much though. They still haven’t hit their stride and they’ve been lucky thus far not to have been punished. Surely they cannot expect to win the tournament in their current form.
1. Turbo charged start
So much for cagey openings! Brazil and Chile took no time in taking the game to each other with tackles flying and chances being created at both ends. Both sides wanted to make a statement with Brazil looking to stamp their authority whilst Chile was determined not to be cowed.
With the pair playing with such speed and intensity there was bound to be mistakes and lapses of concentration. Chile refused to let Brazil breathe pressing, harrying and on occasions making robust challenges. Indeed their equalizer came as a result of Brazilian laxness and Chilean alertness when Eduardo Vargas nipped in to intercept Hulk’s loose pass to put in Alexis Sánchez.
The Seleção for their part looked to spring quickly as soon as they received the ball and pounced on any errors their South American counterparts made. Luis Felipe Scolari’s side tried to play the ball from back to front to negate the pressing game of the Chileans.
The pace didn’t really let up in the second half but the football did become scrappier as both sides were determined not to be bullied out of the game. Chile though seemed to finish the game stronger in normal time as they pressed an increasingly nervous Brazilian defense for the winner.
In extra time the shoe was on the other foot as the Brazilians upped the tempo and looked for the decisive goal, as it was Chile’s turn to feel fatigued. Even then Chile still had the best chance and it took the crossbar to save Brazil right at the end of extra time.
2. Neymar cut a frustrated figure
Neymar had his chances to score against Chile. From the outset it looked like the stars were not aligned for Neymar as he was the victim of a heavy challenge early on which led to him limping for a few minutes, worrying his Brazilian fans and teammates.
As the game went on the ball didn’t quite run for him, at times he took too long to shoot when presented with an opportunity, there was a header that went agonizingly wide, another that was too close to the goalkeeper, he dropped deeper to get the ball in the second half and wasn’t as effective as in the matches against Croatia and Cameroon.
He was let down by his teammates with the exception of Hulk who did his best to change the game and Júlio César who prevented Chile going ahead in the 65th minute with a stunning save.
Such is the character of Neymar though that he still held his nerve to convert his spot kick despite not having the best of games.
3. Profligacy will cost Brazil
Brazil is either going to thump someone very soon or they will pay for their profligacy. Once again Brazil had a number chances to score and yet again couldn’t do so. Fred was abject failing to convert a couple of very presentable opportunities. Jo also had an extremely good opening and but for the intervention of Eugenio Mena the former Manchester City striker would have been well placed to slot home Hulk’s cross.
Hulk was on a one man mission to blast the ball home, Neymar had a header that looked to be going in had it not been deflected off Francisco Silva. Dani Alves had a great strike tipped over the bar by Claudio Bravo but for all those chances Brazil was indebted to Júlio César for keeping them in the game with a great save from a Charles Aránguiz effort.
Brazil’s goal when it came was relatively unspectacular as David Luiz netted his first international strike after connecting with Thiago Silva’s flick on from a Neymar corner.
4. Chile and Brazil made the most of Howard Webb’s leniency
Howard Webb for better or worse refereed this game like a Premier League derby match. The pace was fast and furious and instead of pulling out his cards at every opportunity early on Webb let the game flow and allowed it to have a fairly physical edge. Both sides took full advantage and got stuck into each other and it made for quite a spectacle.
Scolari wasn’t too impressed on the sidelines with Webb’s officiating but if the Englishman were a little fussier the Brazil boss would have seen a few more of his players on yellow cards. How Fernandinho escaped without a booking remains a mystery.
As for the penalties Webb was correct to err on the side of caution. Eduardo Vargas took a tumble trying to meet Alexis Sánchez’s cross in the 11th minute but that appeal was turned down and shortly afterwards Hulk went to ground in the Chilean box after playing a clever one-two with Neymar but he fell far too easily for a penalty to even be considered. Webb is generally reticent to award spot kicks unless he is 100% sure and on both occasions he appeared to make the right call.
However Webb’s decision to disallow Hulk’s effort in the 55th minute was a huge talking point. Going on the advice of his linesman Webb made a brave decision to chalk the goal off. It was a marginal call to say the least and another referee on another day may have given it.
He also had a case of World Cup déjà vu as Jo’s high boot connected with goalkeeper Claudio Bravo’s chest. Though the foul wasn’t as brutal as Nigel De Jong’s martial arts assault on Xabi Alonso, Webb chose to issue a yellow card to Jo, the same colour he brandished to the Dutchman.
Who’d be a referee?
5. César saves Brazil
First up let’s get this out of the way, a penalty shoot-out is not a lottery it is a test of skill and nerve. All right? Good! That said it still is a cruel way to exit the World Cup. Even more so from Chile’s point of view considering they were denied by the crossbar in the very last minute of extra time.
Júlio César saved Chile’s first two penalties though Mauricio Pinilla’s and Alexis Sánchez’s efforts weren’t particularly good. César’s efforts were nearly in vain as Willian and Hulk fluffed their lines. The unfortunate Gonzalo Jara smashed his effort against the post and ensured Brazil sneaked through. Perhaps the frame of the goal was Brazilian just for this game.
But César did not just save the Brazilians in the shoot-out, his save in the 65th minute ensured that Brazil didn’t go 2-1 down. Given how the Seleção wasted their chances over the game they may not have been able to get back into the match.
César deserves a huge amount of credit because he didn’t have much to do but still was alert and sharp enough to make a match-saving intervention. Luis Felipe Scolari for his part will be relieved that he stood behind his keeper because César has dug Brazil out of a hole.