Brazil 2 (T. Silva 7, Luiz 68) – 1 Colombia (Rodriguez 80 (pen))
Brazil ensured passage into the semi-finals with a hard earned win over fellow South American football giant Colombia in an intense passionate encounter in the cauldron of Fortaleza.
The stadium was decked primarily in yellow, the first kit colors of both the teams, with a bustling atmosphere before, through and after the match. Brazil entered the game as clear favorites, Colombia on the other hand have played out of their skins to reach where they have.
Maicon started at right back in place of Barcelona’s Dani Alves, while the Premier League trio of Paulinho, Oscar and Fernandinho started in midfield, with Luiz Gustavo suspended. Fred, Neymar and Hulk started up front. Former Argentina coach Jose Pekerman, currently the manager of Colombia, made two changes to the squad that beat Uruguay in the Round of 16, with Victor Ibarbo and Freddy Guarin being handed starts.
The match kicked off into a frantic opening, and Brazil were soon into their gears, backed up by a vociferous home support. Colombia, who have become a feared attacking unit themselves, more so due to the exploits of young Monaco star James Rodriguez, were pushed to the wall as Brazil built up immense pressure in the opening minutes.
And they had to wait just 7 minutes, as captain Thiago Silva slotted the ball home after a normal looking corner wasn’t cleared by Carlos Sanchez. It was Brazil’s quickest goal in the World Cup since Ronaldo’s opening goal in the 5th minute against Ghana in 2006. The goal set wild celebrations across the stadium.
Colombia, however, slowly looked to come back into the game. Juan Cuadrado, the Fiorentina winger, saw his effort go narrowly wide, from 20 yards out. Brazil looked in a menacing mood on the night however, allowing dangerman James Rodriguez little space. They played a high tempo game with quick marking and pressing, making it hard for the Colombians to hold on to the ball.
In the sweltering heat, that looked to drain ideas out of Colombia, as the pacy Brazilians forced David Ospina into a series of fine saves. First, Hulk bulldozed his way into the final third, only to see his shot saved before Oscar’s long range effort was well saved. Colombia thought they had scored when Mario Yepes had the ball in the back of the Brazilian net, but it was ruled out for an earlier offside.
Rodriguez was constantly being heckled by Brazil’s midfield, despite comments by Scolari before the match that he won’t be specifically targeted. The young midfielder took on the physical ordeal to make some forward plays but found himself subdued due to lack of proper support. Despite being clearly fouled several times, Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo didn’t issue a single yellow card.
Ironically, Rodriguez got a yellow for his challenge on Hulk 25 yards away from goal. It resulted in the winning goal, as David Luiz’s powerful free kick almost broke the back of the net, leaving Ospina with no chance whatsoever. There was a feeling of relief among players and fans alike as Brazil looked more secure with a 2 goal advantage.
There was however an interesting finish to the game, as the Colombians managed to pull a goal back. Rodriguez played a beautiful pass to substitute Carlos Bacca, who was bought down by QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar. Rodriguez kept his cool to make it 2-1, and a locust joined in the celebrations too.
The match would end on a sour note for Brazil, however, as Neymar had his back hurt from a challenge by Zuniga, which sees the star striker ruled out for rest of the competition. To make matters worse ahead of their crunch semi final clash against Germany, Thiago Silva is suspended, giving Luiz Felipe Scolari a selection headache.
As the final whistle blew, young Rodriguez was reduced to tears, as Brazil march on and dream of lifting the World Cup in their own backyard, 64 years after losing to Uruguay in Rio, an event that still haunts the country.
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