World Cup 2014: Brazil v Chile

BRA 1 – 1 CHI (3-2 pens) – a rip-roaring encounter in Belo Horizonte to kick off the knockout stages of the World Cup. An all-South American affair in the searing heat at the Estádio Mineirão between the hosts Brazil, whose last defeat on home soil was in this stadium forty games ago, and the tenacious Chile who have impressed everyone so far with their attacking flair and team work rate. The first half was fantastic with both teams constantly pushing men forward to find the opening goal. Brazil applied the more effective pressure and soon took the lead when David Luiz drifted in unmarked at the back post to stab a Neymar free kick into the net. Chile were spurred into action and levelled soon after through the brilliant Alexis Sánchez who fired past Julio Cesar after some dreadful Brazilian defending failed the clear the ball following good build up play from the imperious Eduardo Vargas. Fred had a great chance to put Brazil ahead almost immediately but fluffed his lines and the teams went into the break level. A stalemate of the second half in which Chile battled hard to soak up the building Brazilian pressure was clouded in controversy when Hulk bundled the ball home but the goal was disallowed as the striker was adjudged to have used his arm to guide the ball into the net – a fair decision I thought. It was a nervy final ten minutes for Brazil and Chile sensed the opportunity to sneak the win which would have not been undeserved thanks to their uncompromising guile and will to win. A flowing move down the right released Charles Aránguiz and his pinpoint cross found Sánchez who acrobatically steered the ball goal wards only for Julio Cesar to make an important stop to send the game into extra-time. Both teams showed signs of attrition as the game went along and Brazil’s forward line were shattered and offered no output whatsoever. Chile looked the more dangerous on the break and deep into the second half of extra time Cagliari striker Mauricio Pinilla struck a vicious effort against the bar as the crowd howled in nervous horror. The game was to be settled by a penalty shootout. Julio Cesar was to be the hero for Brazil saving penalties from Pinilla and Sanchez before defender Gonzalo Jara missed the crucial final kick slamming his effort off the post. Relief for Brazil, empathy for Chile, they did not deserve to exit the tournament in this way. Head Coach Jorge Sampaoli can be proud of his troops but will be devastated to go out on such a good performance from his side. Brazil were lucky, no doubt about it. They looked tired and devoid of ideas after half time and the alarming lack of an effective number nine could hurt them in the quarter finals. I don;t think the home crowd and momentum will survive another subdued performance like this one. They face another South American team with the winners of Uruguay and Colombia yet to be decided. I hope it is Colombia, that would be one hell of a quarter final.

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