Friday, December 15, 2017

Phew!... Brazil sink Chile on penalties


SAVIOUR: Brazil’s goalkeeper Julio Cesar dives for the ball as the decisive penalty hits the upright during the World Cup round of 16 match against Chile at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, yesterday. Brazil won 3-2 on penalties after the match ended 1-1 draw after extra-time. —Photo: AP

Andrew Manswell

Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar saved two spot-kicks in a shootout against Chile to send the hosts into the World Cup quarter-finals 3-2 on penalties following a pulsating 1-1 draw after extra time yesterday.

Four years to the day since Brazil eliminated Chile at the same stage of the 2010 tournament, they did it again when Gonzalo Jara sent his spot-kick against the post after Cesar had twice denied the battling Chileans. Cesar also made an outstanding save in the second half of normal time as the five-times champions moved unconvincingly into the last eight.

David Luiz had put Brazil ahead after 18 minutes but Alexis Sanchez equalised for battling Chile before halftime and the host nation watched with bated breath as Brazil were on the brink of elimination after Willian and Hulk had failed to convert their spot-kicks.

Fortunately for Brazil, Cesar also saved penalties from Mauricio Pinilla and Alexis before Jara’s doomed attempt. “It was complicated,” man-of-the-match Cesar said. “The pressure of representing Brazil and playing at home is really great. We played well in the first half but after Chile equalised they got into the game. My big dream is that Brazil have a party,” said the keeper after helping avoid Brazil’s first home defeat in a competitive game since 1975.

For Chile it was a bitter end to a promising World Cup, after failing to exorcise their Brazilian demons once again and falling to them at the same stage as in 1998 and 2010, the last two times they were in the tournament. The Brazilians, who have now eliminated their fellow South Americans in four World Cups, set a blistering pace and Marcelo took a first crack at Chile with a volley that sailed wide.

Chile quickly lost the battle in midfield but their defence kept tournament joint top scorer Neymar in check. They were helpless, though, when Neymar whipped in a corner in the 18th minute, Thiago Silva headed it on and Luiz, with what looked like some help from Chile’s Jara, bundled it in for his first international goal in his 40th appearance.

With the small red patches of Chile fans in the Mineirao stadium swallowed up by a vast sea of yellow shirts, five-times champions Brazil kept pouring forward and Neymar should have done better when he raced clear, only to drive a low shot wide.

Chile, however, levelled 14 minutes later after making the most of a throw-in mix-up between Hulk and Marcelo to send Alexis into the box and the forward drilled the ball in to stun the crowd into temporary silence. Neymar went agonisingly close with a header that scraped past the post and controlled a superb deep cross-field ball to set up Fred who fired over.

Dani Alves tested Claudio Bravo with a thundering long-range effort but the Chile keeper did well to tip it over the bar. Brazil, who had won nine of their previous ten games against Chile, thought they had scored again early in the second half when Hulk controlled a deep cross and scuffed the ball in but referee Howard Webb booked the forward for handball.

Cesar pulled off a sensational save to deny Charles Aranguiz from point-blank range in a scintillating game in front of 58,000 spectators in which one wrong pass would potentially prove costly. Chile, running on empty in extra time, almost snatched a dramatic last-minute winner when Pinilla rattled the crossbar with a tremendous shot.