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This blog reflects on soccer qua football all over the world. The blog has a specific investment in attractive, attacking football and, as such, focuses on Brazil, the most emphatic historical exponent of the beautiful game.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tears Of Joy For Julio Cesar, David Luiz And Neymar As Brazil Beats Chile On Penalties

Brazil carved out a last minute victory against Chile on penalty kicks in the first match of the elimination stages of the 2014 World Cup. Brazil went ahead in the 18th minute thanks to a David Luiz flick from a Neymar corner, but Chile equalized roughly a quarter of an hour later after Vargas intercepted Hulk’s pass to Marcelo from a throw-in and allowed Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez to dispatch a low shot past the diving Brazil keeper Julio Cesar to make it 1-1. The rest of the match represented an intense, highly physical encounter between the two sides with Chile resorting to tactical fouls to disrupt Brazil’s traditional free flowing style of play. Hulk had a goal disallowed in the second half for handball and represented Brazil’s most dangerous player in the latter stages of the game. Meanwhile, Chile’s Pinilla rattled the bar in the closing minutes of extra time.

In the ensuing penalty shootout, Julio Cesar saved spot kicks by Mauricio Pinilla and Alexis Sanchez before he, David Luiz, Neymar and others burst into tears of joy after Chile's fifth penalty taker Jara hit the post. Neymar covered his face as he lay face down on the field, David Luiz burst into tears and Julio Cesar wept in an emotional interview where he reflected on his widely criticized performance in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal against the Netherlands. After the match, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said that Brazil had been too polite in defending as the host nation and noted that the time may have come for Brazil to return to his more aggressive style of play. Scolari further enumerated how the match sharpened the determination and conviction of the players to win the World Cup and enhanced team unity as they prepare to face Colombia on July 4 in the quarterfinals.

Chile deserve commendation for bringing pace and an attacking mindset to the match but Brazil showed courage and composure, not only in the penalty shootout but also in extra time. Brazil started the match with Fernandinho instead of Paulinho in defensive midfield, but the Manchester City midfielder failed to take control of the center of the park and was substituted for Ramires in the second half. Scolari and the Brazil coaching staff will have lots to think about ahead of Friday's quarterfinal clash against Colombia because Neymar was injured in a 4th minute challenge by Chile's Aranguiz, Luiz Gustavo will miss the quarterfinals due to a second yellow card, and David Luiz is still nursing a back injury. Meanwhile, on the tactical front, Fred continues to deliver unimpressive performances, leaving the door wide open for Scolari to juggle his lineup for the next match.

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