by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 28th 2014)
A thrilling encounter in Belo Horizonte, which is a city not unaccustomed to World Cup upsets, ended with hosts Brasil pipping Chile 3-2 on penalties after Gonzalo Jara Reyesʼ penalty hit the post with Júlio César beaten. It was the second time that the woodwork saved Brasil.
With the clock running down in extra time Alexis Sánchez Sánchez and substitute Mauricio Pinilla Ferrera combined. Pinillaʼs shot from just outside the area thudded against the crossbar. Júlio César stood no chancre and the hearts of the host nation sipped a beat.
By his standards Neymar had a disappointing match, but his penalty against new Barçelona team-mate Claudio Bravo Muñoz showed his class. He waited for Bravo to commit himself before scoring to the other side. Jara had to score as Júlio César had saved two (Pinilla and Sánchez) and Bravo had saved Hulkʼs penalty – Willian had missed.
Careless defending had cost Chile dear earlier, as a free-kick and then corner were needlessly conceded. Neymarʼs corner was nodded on by Brasilʼs captain Thiago Silva who plays for French champions Paris Saint-Germain. David Luiz had never scored for Brasil before and may not have done this time as it appeared to be an own-goal by the luckless Jara.
Chile were not there to make up the numbers. A defensive mix up from Marceloʼs throw-in allowed Valenciaʼs Eduardo Vargas Rojas to pick Hulkʼs pocket, pull it back for Sánchez to score.
Joint top scorer Neymar was outshone by Sánchez, although Brasilʼs star created several opportunities, mainly for himself. He was subjected to harsh treatment by Chilean defenders. Neymar failed to add to his tally. He pulled strings in the first half, but faded as the match continued.
Neymar ran off an injury after Charles Aránguiz Sandoval fouled him. However, almost as soon as the match started Manchester Cityʼs Fernandinho should have been booked by referee Howard Webb for a bad foul on Aránguiz. Again Webb should have brandished cards earlier as some decisions appeared inconsistent later.
Webb turned down two penalty appeals and crucially disallowed Hulkʼs 54th minute goal deciding the Zenit Saint Petersburg striker had handled before beating Bravo with the outside of his foot. Midway through the second half, during a period when Chile looked the more likely to break the deadlock Aránguiz was denied by a fantastic save by Júlio César to maintain parity.
Chile won a few hearts this afternoon, but will be going home while Brasil will meet either Colombia or Uruguay shorn of Luis Suárez on Friday evening.