World Cup 2014: Matchday Sixteen (Last 16)

Brazil 1 – 1 Chile AET (Brazil win 3-2 in Penalty Shoot-Out)

Brazil, derided by many for their performance in the group phase, had a point to prove, and they threw themselves into the game from the off, largely controlling the first half hour of play. Marcelo, Fred, Dani Alves and David Luiz were heavily involved in the forward sweeping runs, a flexible mix of short pass and long ball tactics that had the Chilean defence stretched at numerous moments.

But for all of Brazil’s sudden improvement in attack, nearly everything was still going through Neymar, the golden boy. His runs and precision passes were causing Chile no shortage of grief, and without any other way to stop him they found themselves slamming into him with force when nothing else would do. But that wouldn’t stop the slew of opportunities that came the hosts way in the first, Marcelo volleying just wide early, Neymar having a header deflected just wide before steaming past Silva and dragging a shot to the right of the post, Fred conspiring to slice a near empty net chance over the bar and Dani Alves’ distant effort tipped over by Bravo.

The goal was unlike any of those, a little dink in off the foot of defender Jaro from another great Neymar cross. Chile were rocked, and at that moment it seemed as if Brazil could overwhelm them. But to the surprise of nearly everyone, Hulk’s terrible throw-in was stolen by Vargas, who soon had Sanchez in to equalise from short range.

Both teams could yet have taken the lead in the first, and it was end to end stuff with neither defence looking very solid. Bravo in the Chile goal and Brazilian captain Thiago Silva were two examples of key players having a wobbly day. But 1-1 at the whistle it was.

Brazil were at it again quickly in the second, Fernandinho going very close in the opening minutes, again after good work from Neymar, before Hulk’s strike was correctly ruled out for a handball. Chile were exerting a bit more control on the game, but played their part in it devolving into a foul-laden contest, Aranguiz’ effort past the hour their best chance of the game, pushed aside well by Cesar.

That presaged a period of Chilean dominance, Sanchez and Vidal running rings around the Brazilian defence and midfield, and the hosts seemed to lose all sense of rhythm or coordination. Jo’s unlucky failure to hit Hulk’s exquisite pass from the left was a brief moment of Brazilian resurgence, before Hulk had an even better chance saved by Bravo a few minutes later.

The game petered out in the final few minutes, neither team willing to risk it all by going all out. Extra time belonged mostly to Brazil, with Neymar, Jo and Hulk all having decent chances to seal progression for the home team, Chile content to try and absorb their advances. It was mostly stop start kind of stuff, as extra time so often is, with little good football. Chile were dead on their feet by the end, then nearly stole the game at the death with Pinilla’s thundering crossbar bound shot.

Brazil, and Cesar, were better prepared for the maelstrom of the shootout than Chile, and that was that. I’m sure the electric atmosphere helped. Another unconvincing showing overall from the hosts. Chile had their chances and blew it.

Columbia 2 – 0 Uruguay

It was all Columbia from the off, the yellow shirts enjoying over 70% possession inside the first 15 minutes. But it took a while for them to create a clear-cut chance with the game marred in the early stages by repeated fouls and some unpleasant referee haranguing. Columbia were clearly trying to get Uruguay’s unwholesome reputation to the referees attention early.

James Rodriguez’ stunning chest, turn and volley was just what the game needed really, having drifted into a scrappy mode with no real great entertainment value.  In the aftermath, a shocked Uruguay had no choice but to come out of their shell, with Forlan and Cavani putting themselves about a bit more than they previously had, with Uruguay working better down the right and making a few chances.

Between Cavani’s free and Cristian Rodriguez’ volley, they were showing that they had some attacking options (I almost wrote “teeth”) that didn’t involve Luis Suarez. Columbia had a nervy ten minutes or so but stabilised in the final moments of the half, which passed without any major incident.

Columbia came out in the second with the real intent of killing the game off, and took a big step towards that with Rodriguez’ second, a wonderfully worked team goal, with multiple cross field passes leading to Armero on the left, his cross headed back under pressure by  Cuadrado for Rodriguez to provide the simple finish from space. It was cool, precise and lethally effective stuff.

Columbia were in total command for a period afterward, until Cristian Rodriguez’ run and shot just past the hour, well turned away by  Ospina, reminded Uruguay the game wasn’t out of reach yet. Columbia turtled just a little bit for the final half hour, as Uruguay were granted the opportunity to press high up the pitch.

They just couldn’t make the chances though, Maxi Pereira’s fluke breakaway and Cavani’s rifled volley aside. Columbia were able to see the game out without too much fuss. They have now proven themselves one of the most exciting attacking sides of the tournament, a true joy to watch. Uruguay, minus their rightfully condemned and banned talisman, fell far short of what was required.

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