Brazil breathes again as Chile pay the penalty

After frantic 120 minutes Chile’s Gonzalo Jara missed vital spot-kick in Belo Horizonte

 

Brazil 1 Chile 1 (aet, 1-1 after 90 mins. Brazil win 3-2 on penalties)

The hosts survived and Chile had to suffer yet more World Cup heartbreak against the five times champions here in Belo Horizonte. The first knockout tie went Brazil’s way only after Gonzalo Jara had seen his penalty shoot-out effort crash off the inside of the post, then fly across the goal and wide.

It could barely have been a more dramatic conclusion to what was for long periods a compelling contest. The Estadio Mineirao erupted with a mixture of joy and relief and the Brazilian fans were finally sure that their team would get to fight another day; for long spells it had been far from certain and even in the shoot-out they squandered a commanding position before squeaking through thanks to successful spot kicks from David Luiz, Marcelo and Neymar.

The game was played at an incredible pace early on and such were the levels of speed and commitment that there was more than a hint of glorious mayhem to it all at times through the first half.

Brazil initially dominated in terms of possession and had the better of the chances but Chile always looked to be in it even if they took a little while longer to start carving out clearcut opportunities.

Before they’d had one, they were behind, with Neymar’s corner from the left flicked on by Thiago Silva for his defensive partner Luiz at the far post from where he bundled it home.

For a short spell afterwards it seemed like the Chileans might have been rocked to crisis point by the setback and Neymar certainly seemed capable of opening up their defence at almost any moment. Fortunately for them, he was a little too slow to shoot when the opportunity arose.

Chile rallied soon enough, though, with Arturo Vidal growing increasingly influential just behind strikers Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas, who both started to seem like a danger.

The former got the equaliser, his second in four games at this tournament just over a half an hour in when a throw from the right was poorly defended and Vidal set up a poked shot to the bottom left corner that Julio Cesar was fractionally too slow to get down to.

And for all the homeside’s cracks at goal, Chile came desperately close to snatching the lead on the stroke of half time when Vidal caught Luiz Gustavo napping and set up Charles Aranguiz for a close range shot from a tight angle that midfielder Fernandinho did quite brilliantly to get a block on.

The game slowed down a bit when they returned from the break with both teams tightening up, especially late on when the prospect of making a mistake that would put them out of the competition ensured a far more cautious approach.

It all might have been different, though, if Howard Webb hadn’t ruled a Hulk goal out for handball after 55 minutes. It was a desperately tight call but looked just about right. Chile, in any case, knew that they had the strong referee they had wanted and the rest of the game was punctuated by abusive chants towards the Englishman from a crowd perched anxiously on the edge of their seats.

Jo, on for striker Fred, missed a great close-range opportunity to convert from a couple of yards and at the other end Cesar was forced into a terrific save Aranguiz after a neat build up down the right by Vidal and Mauricio Isla. Chile had to replace the Juventus midfielder, who had been so influential for a spell, shortly afterwards as the knee injury that kept him out of the side’s final group game finally caught up with him.

As extra time started, the locals recovered a lot of the initiative but they lacked bite in the final third and could produce nothing to seriously stretch Claudio Bravo. The Chileans, as they has done throughout the match, struggled to make anything worthwhile of the possession they had out wide, with their strikers looking infuriated more than once by Isla’s failure to beat the first man with an attempted cross.

It got more fraught for both sides as the second 15 minute period slipped by and either one could have nicked it at the death with Mauricio Pinilla clattering the bar with a shot from the edge of the area after holding off a challenge well. Hulk was then prevented from shooting just as he was about to after Brazil had broken.

Neymar, who had been involved in the break, was limping badly by then and he wasn’t the only one. It was an enthralling battle, not as good perhaps as the first 45 minutes seemed to promise, but a game to remember, nevertheless, and one for the hosts, if they can recover fully from it in time, to push on from with a sense, perhaps, that their name is on this trophy.

BRAZIL: 12 Julio Cesar; 2 Dani Alves, 3 Thiago Silva, 4 David Luiz, 6 Marcelo; 5 Fernandinho (16 Ramires, 72 mins), 17 Luiz Gustavo; 7 Hulk, 11 Oscar (19 Willian, 106 mins), 10 Neymar; 9 Fred (21 Jo, 64 mins). Yellow cards: Hulk, Gustavo, Jo, Alves.

CHILE: 1 Claudio Bravo; 4 Mauricio Isla, 17 Gary Medel (13 Jose Rojas, 108 mins), 5 Francisco Silva, 18 Gonzalo Jara, 2 Eugenio Mena; 20 Charles Aranguiz, 21 Marcelo Diaz; 8 Arturo Vidal (9 Mauricio Pinilla), 87 mins); 7 Alexis Sanchez, 11 Eduardo Vargas (16 Felipe Gutierrez, 57 mins). Yellow cards: Mena, Silva, Pinilla,

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