Brazil escapes shootout with Chile
Brazil came within a crossbar’s width of being eliminated from their own World Cup on Saturday, and then were assured a win by the adjoining upright. The home team was always expected to march through the tournament, if not comfortably then at least convincingly, but a plucky Chilean squad gave them all they could handle through 120 minutes of soccer. For the first time in their four games, Brazil actually spent less time with the ball than their opponents—by the narrowest margin, but still—but created more than their fair share of chances.
Brazil struck first, taking advantage of good fortune as much as good timing and positioning. David Luiz plunked himself in from Chile’s goal for a corner kick and when the delivery came in, was standing in just the right place for the ball to hit him and bounce in—not really a goal to put his name on, but one he’ll be happy to give his team. Chile made their mark in the 32nd minute, Eduardo Vargas pouncing on a sloppy Brazilian throw-in, sliding a pass to Alexis Sanchez and letting the Chilean forward do what he does best. Hulk looked to have boosted his team into the lead in the 55th minute, but was deemed to have used his arm—maybe it was his shoulder, maybe his chest—to control the ball before putting it in the goal, costing him a goal and earning him a yellow card for his effort.
Each keeper made at least one Herculean save—Brazil’s Julio Cesar, who was named man of the match, flinching instinctively to knock away a shot by Charles Aranguiz before Chile’s Claudio Bravo twice turned away a very industrious Hulk. Brazil owned the 30 minutes of extra time, but in the dying seconds Chilean Mauricio Pinilla broke through only to thump his shot off the crossbar. Both teams looked exhausted by the time they reached their penalty kicks—only one of the first four shooters scored, two being stifled by Cesar and one Brazilian missing the net entirely. After Neymar stutter-stepped into a goal, Chile needed to score to stay alive, but Gonzalo Jara was denied by the post, giving Brazil the victory.
Forget Suarez, It’s All About James
Don’t just call him James, call him the best player at the 2014 World Cup. Twice James Rodriguez scored against Uruguay, giving him five goals in four games, the most in the tournament—more than Messi, more than Neymar, more than Muller. Uruguay were of course without their best player, Luis Suarez, after the mercurial striker was banned nine games for sinking his teeth into Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, and it showed. The team could hardly get any offence going against the Colombians, who bottled them up at every turn.
Rodriguez’ first goal was an all-time great—he collected a headed pass on his chest and, before the ball could touch grass, sliced it at the net, where it grazed the keeper’s fingertips and the underside of the crossbar before settling in the goal. His second was the benefit of some excellent teamwork—Juan Cuadrado rescued an errant cross, heading it back to the goalmouth where Rodriguez shoved it past the keeper.
Colombian keeper David Ospina saw some work late in the second half, standing tall against a jump-kicked shot by Maxi Pereira and just getting fingertips to a low, hard drive by Edinson Cavani to preserve his clean sheet, but that was about all Uruguay could do to trouble the keeper.
Colombia will ride their dominating performance into their quarterfinal match against Brazil on Friday.