Tatters

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (January 10th 2015)

Reputation

Carlos Velasco Carballoʼs reputation may never recover. Having refereed against type at Fortalezaʼs Estádio Castelão in the controversial hackfest of Brasil v Colombia, Velasco Carballo was savaged by Diego Maradona and given FIFAʼs equivalent of a vote of confidence. FIFA refused to give Juan Camilo Zuñiga Mosquera a retrospective red card or rescind Thiago Silvaʼs yellow card.

Zuñiga should have been sent off, but so should several others. It was baffling that a referee with a reputation as a disciplinarian had refereed this match as if he had forgotten his cards in the dressing room. It is also a great pity as Velasco Carballo, contrary to Maradonaʼs opinion is actually a very good referee – one who had steadily earned the top matches with stellar performances. That reputation is all but undone by one match.

He officiated his first top flight match a decade ago – Barçelona v Sevilla. Velasco Carballo decided to concentrate exclusively on refereeing in 2010. He had quietly built up a reputation as a firm but fair referee – one who managed to combine a disciplinarian streak with letting the game flow. This was quite an achievement.

Careful

He was a studious referee too – one who knew the foibles of those he was refereeing. Nobody pulled the wool over his eyes, so what happened to him on July 4th 2014? Did the occasion get to him? The refereeing of that match took some explaining then – it still does. There is no evidence that he was fazed by big occasions.

Velasco Carballo refereed his first international match in 2008 after earning the appropriate FIFA badge. The 2010-11 season was his first refereeing past the qualifiers for the Championʼs League. He ended that season with a high profile match – the Europa League Final in Dublin. Radamel Falcao – then playing for Porto – set a Europa League (UEFA Cup) record for goals scored in the competition.

Falcao, who would strongly criticise Velasco Carballo over the match in Fortaleza, scored the only goal of that match. It was a match punctuated by fouls and cards. 42 fouls resulted in eight yellow cards. This was typical Velasco Carballo. The native of Madrid is not allowed to referee any match involving Madrid teams, but his performance in that season marked him as one to watch.

Against His DNA

His performance in Fortaleza was incredible. There were 54 fouls in that match – well penalised ones. He brandished four yellow cards and no red cards. It required more than 40 offences bbefore he showed his first card and that was not for a violent challenge. There were also offences that were not penalised despite being under his nose (see Pockmarked at https://empowersport.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/pockmarked/).

The failure to enforce the rules also contributed to a serious injury suffered by Neymar. Zuñiga ploughed into Neymarʼs back. Whether he intended serious injury or not is immaterial. It was a ludicrous challenge – one that would never have been tolerated, or most likely even tried, if Velasco Carballo had been allowed to referee as he normally would have.

Zuñiga quickly apologised. The players have no problem with each other, but anxious to reach the ball or not these are the challenges that must not be allowed or encouraged even tacitly, as lack of consequences does. When Brasil played Colombia in a friendly in the USA, they embraced each other, but that match was scarred by the quarter-final in Fortaleza – a dirty business. Juan Guilermo Cuadrado Bello was sent off.

Form

The Europa League Final was far from the only match that Velasco Carballo refereed in his strict manner. He has a habit of showing cards, including sending players off. During the 2011-12 season in Spain he issued 16 red cards in 19 matches that he refereed. He was Spainʼs representative at Euro2012, refereeing the opening match between co-hosts Poland and Greece.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos received a second yellow card for fouling Polandʼs Rafal Murawski just before half time. Even that card was harsh, but the previous one beggared belief. Just before being sent off he received his first yellow card for allegedly fouling Robert Lewandowski, but the replays showed that Papastathopoulos had actually won the ball cleanly and fairly.

It was no foul and therefore it could not have been a yellow card. If he did not receive a yellow card then, he would not have been sent off for fouling Murawski and Greece would still have had eleven players on the pitch.

To paraphrase the great author Oscar Wilde: “To give one yellow card wrongly or harshly may be considered a misfortune. To give two is carelessness”! He also sent off Polandʼs goal-keeper Wojciech Szczesny in the same match.

So what happened in Fortaleza? Why had he abandoned the habits of a lifetime and done so on an even bigger stage? We are yet to get a satisfactory answer. Tolerating over forty offences before brandishing a single yellow card resulted in a display that was alien to the Spaniardʼs DNA.

And what of Velasco Carballo himself? FIFA say that there was no directive to referees to spare the rod and spoil the spectacle. But why would a stern referee officiate so against type? They also failed to take any sanction against the Spaniard for his bizarre performance that surely would have followed if it was all his fault. Would he return to form free from the ʻdirectiveʼ or was Fortaleza a taste of things to come?

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Brasil Fail Again

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 12th 2014)

Controversial Start

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Despite denouncing the match at Brasiliaʼs Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha as pointless, Manchester-bound Louis van Gaal sent a strong team out to contest the penultimate match of Brasilʼs World Cup. Luiz Felipe Scolari, also named a strong team, but the Seleção got yet another awful start, although it should have been worse.

Just over a minute into the match the Netherlandsʼ captain Robin van Persie out-muscled Paris Saint-Germainʼs Thiago Silva. He controlled it, turned and passed to Arjen Robben. Bayern Münchenʼs winger out-paced Silva who pulled him back.

As Silva was the last man he plainly should have been sent off, but the Algerian referee Djamel Haïmoudi only brandished a yellow card. It plainly ought to have been a red card – yet another example of the ludicrous leniency that has plagued this tournament, especially in Brasilʼs favour.

Pointless

Júlio César Soares de Espíndola was easily beaten by van Persie from the spot to give the Dutch the lead – a lead they never surrendered. It soon got embarrassing. Danny Blind will take over managing the Dutch team in two years time. His son Daley – a defensive midfielder – has never scored an international goal previously.

The Ajax player found Brasilian defending – a misnomer if ever there was one – to his taste. Swansea Cityʼs Jonathan de Guzman crossed from the right wing after being released on that flank by Robben. David Luiz inexplicably headed the cross towards the penalty spot rather than over the bar. Blind could hardly believe his luck. He brought it down, set it up and placed it carefully out of Júlio Césarʼs reach to double the Netherlandsʼ lead.

White Elephant

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Brasiliaʼs stadium was well attended tonight. Sadly that is unlikely to be repeated. Last years manifestations (demonstrations) against the corruption that had permeated Brasilian society from top to bottom began in Brasilia. Its stadium is state-of-the-art. The facilities are top notch. It is an excellent stadium, but there is no chance of it being anything but a white elephant of gargantuan proportions.

Brasilia doesnʼt have a team that is capable of filling the stadium after the 2014 World Cup. Their top team is in the fourth division of Brasilian football. They do not have the slightest chance of filling this stadium week in week out and everyone knows it. It is a colossal waste of money and worse still the promises that public resources would not be spent on stadiums has not been kept.

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The protesters have got every point”, the BBCʼs South American football expert Tim Vickery told Empower-Sport last year. “Firstly because they were explicitly lied to and they were told in 2007 that all of the money to build stadiums would be private money with public money being used for infrastructure. Hasnʼt happened at all”.

So what has happened? The oligarchy that has brought Brasillian football to the brink of disaster has overtly lied to the people. “Almost all of the money being used on stadiums is public money and so many of the transport infrastructure projects never got off the page and there are some projects that should have been in there that arenʼt anyway”, Vickery says.

Their Fiefdom

Brasilian football was run as a personal fiefdom by the former President of the Brasilian Football Federation Ricardo Texeira. His successor José Maria Marin is no better. In some ways Marin is even worse. Brasilia will have no World Cup legacy, just citizens saddled with enormous debts to maintain a stadium they never wanted. Vickery supports the protesters.

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I think two of the cities that youʼve been to that I was at – Salvador – Salvador is paying for an underground since the year 2000”, Vickery said. “Itʼs not operational. You know, why? Belo Horizonte has an underground that kind of links somewhere not very interesting to somewhere else not very interesting”.

This was a terrible wasted opportunity. “What an opportunity the World Cup was to make the underground the main platform of the public transport system”, Vickery says, “so these opportunities werenʼt taken”. The transport system and other essential infrastructural projects fell by the wayside. The priority was stadiums and more stadiums and even those had glitches.

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Quite apart from the fact that of these twelve stadiums four of them have limited viability – I mean you mentioned Brasilia”, Vickery says. “You could certainly throw in Cuiabá and Manaus as well and possibly Natal, so the protesters have every point”. But itʼs too late. Resources Brasil could ill afford have been squandered on a stadium that cannot support itself, which should never have been built.

Pride

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After the shameful capitulation in Belo Horizonte Luiz Felipe Scolari knew that his team owed Brasilians a performance. Chelseaʼs Ramires and club team-mate Willian too in a far more competitive line-up. Fred – the scapegoat for most of this teamʼs woes is second only to the injured Neymar in scoring – was dropped and Hulk too.

How quickly they forget. Just a year ago the afore-mentioned Fluminense striker started slowly and ended the Confederationsʼ Cup as the tournamentʼs top scorer. It made no difference. The 64 year wait to avenge Alcides Ghiggiaʼs destruction of Brasilian hopes had ended in shameful failure, leaving nothing but restoring pride to play for.

With seven minutes of the first half remaining Paris Saint-Germainʼs Maxwell should have received at least a caution and probably red for elbowing Dirk Kuyt in the head. Kuyt and his Dutch team-mates were unimpressed. The leniency shown to Brasil for their persistent and niggling fouling made a mockery of the tournament and helped an inadequate team not only to overachieve, but deny better teams a fair chance.

The Beautiful Game

Within ten minutes of his introduction at half time Fernandinho fouled Robben and got himself booked for one on van Persie. Minutes later Hernanes clattered Robben. He should have been booked. It took almost an hour for Ramires to get the better of Aston Villaʼs Ron Vlaar, but the Chelsea midfielder pulled his shot wide of Cillessenʼs goal.

But halfway through the second half Óscar was booked for simulation. As a result of his challenge Blind had to be stretchered off. Meanwhile, Ajaxʼs Jasper Cillessen hardly had a save to make and was replaced in injury time by Michel Vorm.

Swanseaʼs keeperʼs hardly got a touch. Moments before he came on Daryl Janmaat overlapped Robben on the right wing and crossed for Georginio Wijnaldum to make it three – a convincing win that suggests there are still very serious problems to address in Brasilian football.

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Germany Humiliate Brasil

 

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 8th 2014)

Unprecedented

Shorn of the talents of Neymar (injured) and Thiago Silva (suspended) Joachim Löw’s Germany dismantled the host Brasil 7-1. It was the worst defeat in a semi-final of the World Cup ever, beating the three joint best 6-1 – Argentina v the USA, Uruguay v Yugoslavia in 1930 and West Germany v Austria in 1954.

Five nil up within half an hour Germany could have notched a cricket score, but at half time they withdrew Mats Hummels in favour of Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker, having taken a decision not to humiliate their hosts. For ten minutes it was an even contest, but the bane of Brasil’s performance soon became evident as Germany cut through Brasil’s defence with consummate ease.

Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira won a corner off club colleague Marcelo. It was taken by Bayern München’s departing attacking midfielder Toni Kroos. The marking was abysmal as Kroos’ team-mate for club and country Thomas Müller was unmarked at the back post to volley in from 8 yards. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s teams are normally solid at the back. Tonight they were dismal.

Ten Minutes that Scarred a Nation

Brasil conceded the next four goals in less than ten minutes. Manchester City’s Fernandinho may wish that Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo had stayed true to form and remained a fussy disciplinarian referee against Colombia – this proved a good match to be suspended for. Fernandinho ought to have intercepted Müller’s pass to Kroos, but failed to do so. Kroos found Miroslav Klose whose shot was parried back to the German poacher – all his World Cup Finals’ goals were from within the box. Klose pounced on the rebound to become the record-holder with 16. Six minutes later Germany were 5-0 up as Brasil capitulated.

Within two minutes Germany cut swathes down the right flank. Kroos found Arsenal’s Mesut Özil who released Philipp Lahm. Germany’s captain squared for Müller to score der Mannschaft’s third. A minute later a comical defensive lapse by Fernandinho gifted another. Fernandinho made a mess of Dante’s pass, allowing Kroos to pinch possession, surge forward and a one-two with Khedira beat Júlio César Sores de Espíndola, even though the keeper got a hand to it. That was three in as many minutes.

Three minutes later the rout became embarrassing. Khedira was bossing the match and bagged himself a rare goal. David Luiz’ pass was intercepted and after exchanging passes with Kroos, Khedira bagged the fifth with less than half an hour played.

Disgraceful

Captaining his country Luiz’ should never have completed the half let alone match. He elbowed Klose in the face twice. The first time Klose did him a favour and ignored it – the second time he went down. Replays confirmed that Luiz had indeed elbowed Klose twice. Both times referee Marco Rodríguez – the Méxican official who had ignored Giorgio Chiellini’s efforts to show him that Luis Suárez had bitten him – failed to take action.

What do Brasilians have to do to get sent off in this World Cup? In fact even yellow cards are rare. Just over a quarter of an hour into the match Marcelo went to ground wanting a penalty. Lahm’s tackle was well-timed, but Marcelo had dived. He should have been booked. Minutes earlier the same player had cynically blocked Müller and Bernard did the same to Kroos.

Hulk got in on the simulation later as well. Yet again no cards were brandished until after an hour even after the fiasco of the previous match. Luiz should have been shown the yellow card for clattering Müller right in front of the referee. And then there was his reaction to a later foul by Müller. Luiz kicked out at him, but didn’t connect. Germans fouled too, but far less. Luiz Gustavo deserved at least a card and both Fred and Óscar tried to buy penalties cheaply without success.

Consolidation

Both managers made changes at half time. Ramires and Paulinho replaced Hulk and Fernandinho at half time. Defensive frailties persisted – Luiz had a very poor game, but Müller couldn’t profit from his error. Paulinho almost made a quick impact, but Neuer’s double save from point blank range. A minute earlier he denied Óscar. With just under an hour played Júlio César tipped Müller’s shot from just outside the area over the bar.

A couple of minutes later Maicon became the latest to try to con a penalty. He failed, but yet again no card was shown. Finally – after three quarters of the match Rodríguez brandished a card in Dante’s direction for clattering Müller from behind. Chelsea’s André Schürrle had replaced the record-breaking Klose twelve minutes before he put Germany six up.

Lahm and Khedira exploited the weak defending on Brasil’s left. Lahm pulled it back for Schürrle to tap in. The carnage was still incomplete. A quick throw down the left wing found Müller. His reverse pass to Schürrle was sublime. Schürrle continued down the left of the area before lashing it past Júlio César at his near post for the best of Germany’s seven.

With a minute of normal time remaining Özil wasted a golden opportunity to make it eight, pulling his shot wide of Júlio César’s far post. To Neuer’s disgust Germany conceded as added tie approached. Neuer – the sweeper-keeper failed to come and clear the danger as Óscar latched on to Marcelo’s long pass to the left of Germany’s area. He cut to the right and beat Neuer to the keeper’s right. The look of disgust on Neuer’s face was priceless.

It was Brasil’s worst defeat in a tournament for almost a century – a 6-0 drubbing by Uruguay on September 18th 1920 in the Campeonato Sudamericano de Football, which is now known as the Copa América.

 

The Beautiful Game

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 4th 2014)

RIP

Luiz Felipe Scolari once declared that the beautiful game was dead. He also said that he wanted his team to foul more. Tonight Colombiaʼs talented play-maker was hacked off the park with referee Carlos Velasco Carballo little more than a spectator as shameful so-called challenges went unpunished. Scolari got his wish. The beautiful game died tonight – RIP.

FIFA wanted referees to be more lenient so cards and suspensions didnʼt pile up. This evening the consequences became obvious. The Colombians noticed that their influential play-maker, Monacoʼs James Rodríguez Rubio had plainly been targeted. Brasilʼs tactics were for Manchester Cityʼs Fernadinho and Tottenham Hotspurʼs Paulinho in particular to prevent him playing by foul means – fair didnʼt even compute.

Neither Brasilian was even booked, let alone sent off as they deserved. Had they been shown the yellow card when it was warranted – after 14 minutes in Fernandinhoʼs case, the referee would have retained control and a potentially mouth-watering tie may have had a chance to blossom. Instead the prodigiously talented Rodríguez and later Barçelonaʼs Neymar were used as kicking bags.

Disgraceful

Napoliʼs Juan Zúñiga Mosquera is public enemy number one in Brasil now and that wonʼt change for a long time. He claims that his 88th minute so-called challenge was not intended to injure Brasilʼs talisman Neymar. The evidence proves otherwise. He kneed Neymar in the back with the ball nowhere near. It was a shocking and disgraceful challenge that deserves appropriate punishment – a long ban.

Zúñigaʼs protestations that he meant no injury to Neymar ring hollow. There was no credible effort to play the ball. It was almost certainly retribution for the treatment that Colombiaʼs talented attacking players had been subjected to earlier. Almost a fifth of Brasilʼs fouls – brutal ones – were committed to ensure that Rodríguez could not play.

They were meant to leave a mark and make him liable to be clattered whenever he had the temerity to try to play. This was anti-football at its worst. Brasil committed 31 fouls out of a tournament record 54 with Rodríguez the number one target in their sights. Fernandinho, Paulinho, Paris Saint-Germainʼs Thiago Silva and David Luiz and Championʼs League winning Real Madridʼs Marcelo all had a crack at him.

Anti-Football

Fellow attacking options, Fiorentinaʼs Juan Cuadrado Bello and Cagliariʼs Víctor Ibarbo Guerrero were also hacked to pieces. The trio had been the victims of almost a third of the fouls committed on their own in the first half. Brasil had clearly adopted a novel interpretation of the phrase ʻthey shall not passʼ!

And where was the referee while this carnage was going on? Velasco Carballo is an élite level referee in Spain. Ironically he has the reputation of a disciplinarian. His reputation will now be in tatters. After yet another foul had been committed on Rodríguez, the play-maker was deliberately prevented from taking it quickly.

Yet again Fernadinho was on hand. When he finally took it confusion reigned and Brasil got possession. There was no question of retreating ten yards or even trying to. Not a word of reprimand, let alone a long overdue yellow card emerged and later when Rodríguez prepared to take another with his sights set on goal the wall encroached again without consequences. With the spray available to prevent this, why was that free-kick not taken again? Why were the offenders not booked?

Ludicrous

It took over an hour for Velasco Carballo to brandish a yellow card – astonishing given the extent of brutal fouling adopted by Brasil in particular. Colombia committed 23 fouls themselves, but theirʼs was a reaction to the knowledge that Brasil had chosen to ensure that they would not be allowed to play football and the referee was content to allow them to get away with it. Eventually they retaliated in one case in a particularly brutal fashion.

While Neymar deserves sympathy and protection Brasil do not and they may yet pay a very high price. They are through, but must face Germany without Neymar – the man they built their team around. They had a plan to neutralise Colombiaʼs attacking threat by foul means and they stuck to it. They were allowed to do it by officials who lost control as early as a 14 minutes into the match.

Rudely Interrupted

Prior to the carnage Brasil took the lead. Fernandinhoʼs long pass to Neymar was intercepted at the expense of a corner. The Colombian defending of Neymarʼs corner was woeful to put it mildly. With just 7 minutes played Elcheʼs midfielder Carlos Sánchez Moreno switched off and allowed Thiago Silva an untracked run to the back post where he kneed it past Niceʼs impressive goal-keeper David Ospina Ramírez to give Brasil the lead. It was the first time Colombia had gone behind.

The Colombians did not play to their potential – they werenʼt allowed to. Brasil showed the ugly side of their game to render the potent Colombian attacking threat neutered. The first yellow card came when Silva impeded Ospinaʼs clearance and then put the ball in the net. Incredibly given the brutality that had preceded it was hardly a transgression in the greater scheme of what had gone before, but certainly a yellow card offence.

Normal Service

Before long it was evened out as Velasco Carballo shamefully booked Rodríguez for what was at best a minor offence as Rodríguez plainly withdrew his leg prior to contact if there was any. Adding insult to injury David Luizʼ fantastic 30 yard free-kick beat Ospina to give Brasil their insurance goal – one they would need. He was yet another who deserved a card for a brutal first half foul. Slightly before that goal two other major incidents happened.

A free-kick was taken and rebounded off David Luiz. A scramble followed. Atalantaʼs Mario Yepes Díaz bundled the ball in. It was chalked off for offside – a marginal decision. In another incident Thiago Silva looked injured. Unfortunately he was the culprit, yet another foul that warranted a booking – this time on Borussia Dortmundʼs Adrián Ramos Vázquez. That would have been his second and a sending off. It would also have sent a message to Brasil that they had to defend by fair means – one that should have been sent far earlier. Colombia began to retaliate. Cuadrado should have been booked for a foul on Neymar, but this was long after Rodríguez had been refused protection. 

Finale

With just over ten minutes left Rodríguez put Sevillaʼs Europa League winner Carlos Bacca Ahumada through on goal. QPRʼs goal-keeper Júlio César Soares de Espíndola, currently on loan to Toronto FC, took him out to concede a penalty. Luiz was covering, so Velasco Carballo decided that a yellow card would suffice despite denying a goal-scoring opportunity. Rodríguez kept his nerve to beat Júlio César and set up a nervous finale.

At least three Brasilians had committed enough serious offences to deserve sending off, but that did not happen. And then Velasco Carballo ignored Zúñigaʼs assault on Neymar. Undoubtedly, Zúñiga should have been sent off. Either the referee and his officials saw that and much more and ignored it or they missed it. As free-kicks were given, but not more for most of Brasilʼs transgressions FIFA cannot and will not act retrospectively. Zúñigaʼs offence is a different matter.

If Fernandinho had received the card he deserved then Velasco Carballo would have retained control and this match would not have disintegrated into a relic from the past. Velasco Carballoʼs failure to take and maintain control had sadly predictable consequences. Neymar was targeted too and he paid the highest price – an undeserved exit from the World Cup. His team are considerably weakened now. It could and should have been so different. Deprived of both Thiago Silva and Neymar, they face Germany in the semi-final.

RIP the beautiful game.

Brasil beat Chile – Just

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 28th 2014)

Fine Margins

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.

Advantage

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.

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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.

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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.

Brasil Ease Past Cameroun

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 23rd 2014)

Class

Brasil inspired by Neymar brushed past a disorganised Cameroun easily. Neymarʼs first half brace overcame the shock of Joel Matipʼs 25th minute equaliser. Neymar restored order with his second ten minutes before half time. Brasil could have more in their most convincing display of this World Cup. The much maligned Fred finally opened his account to the relief of his team-mates and all Brasil fans, although he looked offside.

It should be remembered that the Fluminense striker started slowly in the Confederationsʼ Cup last year as well. How did that work out? He failed to score in his first two matches and faced calls for him to be dropped. Luis Felipe Scolari was having none of it and stuck by Fred.

Neymarʼs Show

He scored a brace in his next match and finished the tournament as top scorer. The World Cup-winning coach obviously sees something in Fred and has surely earned the right not to be second guessed on his selections.

Manchester Cityʼs Fernandinho got the fourth to seal a convincing 4-1 drubbing of a sorry looking Cameroun team who arrived in Brasil with a huge cloud hanging over them and depart a shambles with players fighting each-other rather than for each-other and viewed as traitors in their own country.

Convincing

Apart from a terrible defensive lapse that affected Thiago Silva, Marcelo and David Luiz for Matipʼs goal – Allan-Roméo Nyom squared it to Matip – Brasil never looked likely to be tested defensively. That freed Scolariʼs team to entertain the crowd in Brasilia. Neymar was in fine form orchestrating Brasilʼs occasional swagger as well as getting a brace before being substituted to protect him for later matches.

Neymarʼs outrageous flick up and volley in the 19th minute was parried by Itandje. It showed his skill. Thiago Silvaʼs long pass found Hulk whose cross was poorly cleared. It broke to Neymar who showed why Scolari built his team around Barçelonaʼs star in waiting.

Fred scrambled for a goal. A minute later, Stéphane Mbia was caught in possession and the ball was helped through to Paulinho. Tottenham Hotspurʼs defensive midfielder has had a difficult first season in England, but crossed and Fred tried to bundle in, but Henri Bedimo Nsamé tackle prevented him making contact. Itandje smothered it.

Less than a quarter of an hour later David Luiz received the ball from Luis Gustavo in his own half and initiated an attack. Luizʼ long ball to the left was headed clear by Nyom to Marcelo. The Real Madrid defender released Neymar to run and shoot from just inside area with Itandje going wrong way after 34 to make it 2-1. Just before half time another long pass from Luiz allowed Neymar to continue to display his tricks, but nothing came from it once he had laid it off to Hulk as Matip conceded a corner.

Results

Brasil were rarely threatened in the second half. Almost as soon as the second half got under-way Hulk was put through by Fernandinho, but an excellent tackle by Bedimo thwarted him. It led to a good shot by Fred and save by Itandje, but Fred was getting closer.

A bad foul by Eyong Enoh on Neymar, should have resulted in another caution for Enoh, but referee Jonas Eriksson chose to be lenient and did not brandish a card. Enoh was fortunate. A minute later Cameroun were unfortunate in the extreme. Fredʼs goal was needed by the Fluminense forward, but he was clearly off-side and so was David Luiz when he was put through to deliver the cross for Fred to score – dreadful misses by the officials.

With six minutes remaining and México making a battle of it for top spot, Cameroun got careless. Chelseaʼs Óscar intercepted, allowing Fernandinho to exchange a one-two with Fred and shoot across Itandje from to make it safe for Brasil. Meanwhile, Croatia got a consolation goal. The positions were now clear. Brasil would top the group and face Chile in the last sixteen and the Netherlands would face México.

 

They Shall Not Pass

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 17th 2014)

Tactical Nous

World Cup hosts Brasil experienced a frustrating evening in Fortaleza as Miguel Herreraʼs México withstood everything that Luiz Felipe Scolariʼs team could throw at them. It ended 0-0, but this was no bore draw. Scolari had previously said that México was the team that gave them the stiffest test in the Confederations Cup and beat them in the Olympic Games – the one title to elude the Brasilians.

Undoubted Man of the Match Guillermo Ochoa who plays in Franceʼs Ligue Un for Ajaccio proved to be an unbreakable final barrier. Neymar rose to to meet Barçelona team-mate Dani Alves da Silvaʼs cross head powerfully at goal, but Ochoa was determined not to be beaten. A firm right hand pushed it away for a corner.

A fantastic save and there were more to come. Neymarʼs free-kick was superbly chested through by Brasilʼs captain Thiago Silva into the path of Spurs midfielder Paulinho. Somehow, Ochoa blocked his effort from point blank range.

Clearly, tonight it would require something special to beat Ochoa and Fredʼs consistently weak efforts wasted Neymarʼs work in particular The controversial Fluminense forward who starred in the Confederationsʼ Cup last year had a dreadful match – as bad as Ochoa excelled.

Midway through the second half Neymar was once again denied by Ochoa at the expense of a corner which he collected after juggling it and unleashing a long clearance that Dani Alves did well to head clear. As the half entered its final ten minutes Paris Saint-Germainʼs Thiago Silva had little choice but to foul Manchester Unitedʼs Javier Hernández, who had just replaced Méxicoʼs star striker Oribe Peralta – one of the home-based players. Peralta plays for Santos Laguna.

Villarrealʼs Giovanni dos Santos took a poor free-kick that resulted in a quick break. Bernard tried to find former Manchester City and Everton striker Jô (João Alves de Assis da Silva) who currently plays alongside Ronaldinho at Atlético Mineiro, but Ochoa intercepted at the forwardʼs feet. Shortly afterwards Silva could not believe his ill-fortune as Ochoa thwarted him yet again with an instinctive save.

Ambitions

While Brasil could not find a a way past the final barrier Ochoaʼs defence performed well too. Veteran captain Rafa Márquez, captaining the team for a fourth World Cup – a record – marshalled the defence well. Francisco Rodríguez thwarted Neymar by intercepting Bernardʼs cross. The rub of the whistle seemed to go to the hosts, but without dire consequences.

Ten minutes into the match Marceloʼs fantastic pass down left wing released Chelseaʼs Óscar who crossed to Fred the striker was offside, but it was not given. Fred wasted the opportunity by rippling the side-netting. It wasnʼt the only poor decision. Replays showed that Héctor Herrera shot was tipped over by Brasilʼs goalkeeper Júlio César Soares de Espíndola (usually known as Júlio César), but a goal-kick was given – yet another case for using replays!

As the match progressed México attacked, but restricted themselves to long-range shooting. With five minutes left of the first half Miguel Layún shot wide from distance. Andrés Guardado had a couple of efforts that met the same fate as did another from Herrera. A dreadful attempt from Marcelo to try to get a penalty – he went down far too cheaply after minimal contact by Raúl Jiménez. In injury time Júlio César saved Jiménezʼ effort. Draw, yes – bore draw, no.